Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Latke or Hamantash?

I saw this here and enjoyed it so much, I just had to share.

From wikipedia:

The Latke-Hamantash debate is an anual humorous academic debate concerning which of the two the respective debater prefers. The debated started at the University of Chicago and has since then been held at very prestigious universities like Harvard, Brandeis, Princeton and Stanford.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the different arguments that these serious academics used:
  • Hanna Gray discusses the silence of Machiavelli on the subject; noting that "The silence of a wise man is always meaningful",[12] she comes to the conclusion that Machiavelli was Jewish, and like all wise people, for the latke.
  • Isaac Abella, professor of physics, asserts that "Which is Better: the Latke or the Hamantash?" is an invalid question, since it does not exhibit the necessary property of universality, is culturally biased, implies gender specificity, exhibits geographical chauvinism and appeals to special interests.
  • Michael Silverstein, professor in anthropology, linguistics, and psychology, argues that it is not mere coincidence that the English translation of the letters on the dreidl spells out T-U-M-S. He cites this as evidence that "God may play dice with the universe, but not with Mrs. Schmalowitz’s lukshn kugl, nor especially with her latkes and homntashen."
  • Professor Wendy Doniger of the divinity school, in a carefully footnoted paper entitled "The Archetypal Hamentasch: A Feminist Mythology", asserts that hamentaschen are a womb equivalent, and were worshipped in early matriarchal societies.
  • In the debate at MIT, Robert J. Silbey, dean of its School of Science, has cited Google, which returns 380,000 hits on a search for "latke" and only 62,000 for "hamantaschen". Silbey has also claimed that latkes, not hamentashen, are the dark matter thought to make up over 21 percent of the mass of the universe.
  • Allan Bloom posited a conspiracy theory involving Sigmund Freud and the Manischewitz company.
  • Developmental psychologist Kenneth Kaye cited Freud's most important works, Constipation and its Discontents and The Goy and the Yid in proving that a latkedikh or a hamentashenlikh personality is determined by an infant's mother's breastfeeding behavior in the first two weeks of life.[13]
  • According to literature professor Diana Henderson, "The latke is appropriate for lyric, tragic, and epic forms", but "There is very little poetry in the prune," a common hamentashen filling.
  • The physicist Leon Lederman's contribution is entitled "Paired Matter, Edible and Inedible".
  • An entry by the economist Milton Friedman discusses "The Latke and the Hamantash at the Fifty-Yard Line".
  • Criminal lawyer Professor Alan Dershowitz, during a debate at Harvard University, accused the latke of increasing the United States' dependence on oil.[2]
  • In a memorable debate in the early 1970s at the Clanton Park Synagogue Purim Party in Toronto, Canada, attorneys Aaron Weinstock and Meyer Feldman - debating in their formal legal robes and wigs - debated with much hilarity. The result was a draw.
  • When he was President of Princeton University, Harold Tafler Shapiro argued the hamentaschen's superiority by pointing out the epicurean significance of the "edible triangle" in light of the literary "Oedipal triangle."
  • In the 2010 Stanford Law School debate, Constitutional Law Professor Pam Karlan quoted from the majority opinion of Blackmun in the case County of Allegheny v. ACLU, which said: "It is also a custom to serve potato pancakes or other fried foods on Chanukah because the oil in which they are fried is, by tradition, a reminder of the miracle of Chanukah."[14] She noted that the Supreme Court has given no such recognition to the hamantash.
  • The most recent University of Chicago debate featured Chemistry professor Aaron Dinner, who argued from a standpoint of energy efficiency, pointing out the oil of the Latke must have at least eight times the energy density of traditional fuels.
Hanna Gray has stated for the record that "both the latke and hamentasch are simply wonderful. We welcome them to our diverse, pluralistic and tolerant community of scholars." She has, however, taken a stand with her statement that "Renaissance humanism grew out of the revival of the latke."
Maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to attend this debate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

1 Child 3 Birthdays

Well, it's over.

Today was the last of the birthday parties of Darling Daughter nr 1.
There was the first celebration on shabbes (her non-Jewish birthday, which we celebrated only because it was later then the Jewish-we're procrastinators) with the family, a second with her friends from gan and a third in gan.
Of course, for her it was fantastic. She walked around for weeks, boasting to everyone that she has three birthdays.
But for me it was a different story.
First there was the shabbes meal, which was fine, since it wasnt a big effort compared to any other shabbes. Then came the kids party. It was my first time hosting a birthday party with a group of little kids; and well, it's exhausting.
For some reason, at least in our house, the woman is still automatically the one in charge (even though my husband said he would take care of the entertainment). And really, there's a lot to do, from preps weeks before (I saved the overload of simchat torah candy, though, so didnt have to buy any) to on the day itself, not to mention the hosting and the cleaning up afterwards. Then there was still the goody bag , which naturally had to be put together only minutes before the party. Plus, let's not forget the home-made elmo cake, which came out really well-if I do say so myself.

And then finally the last celebration in gan. It was so cute, with games, a present and some snacks. Actually, if it were up to me, this would have been her party and we could have scratched number 2. I guess it is up to me, but not entirely. Of course, nobody is forcing me to throw her a party at home. But then again, I don't want my daughter being the only one without a party. My parents didn't think much of birthdays, so I never had a party. When I was very young it was still ok, I didn't really realize what I was missing, but once as I got older, it got worse. Other kids wouldn't invite me, following the logic that since I didn't invite them, they wouldn't invite me. Then word got round that I didnt have a party and slowly I started getting invite again. But not having a party (or very often even a present) and having a birthday during the summer holidays when even my closest friends were gone, was never easy. Till this day it's a sore spot for me. I stopped expecting anything, and kind of like not doing anything. But secretly, I wish that once someone would make a big deal out of it, though I know I would't be able to deal with a big shabang, won't like being in the spot light and would be nervous the entire time about whether or not people are having a good time. So after every birthday, I feel a little disappointed and a little relieved.
I dont want my daughter to grow up with such conflicted feelings over her birthday, a day that should just be fun and a little special. I'm trying not to turn her into my project, giving her all I never had. Rather, I'll follow the minhag hamakom, and, even though I find 3 parties a little over the top and, not to mention exhausting for all, I do not want my daughter to become the odd one out.
I am glad it's over, though.
Now on to my friend's wedding and sheva brachot planning!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unconventional Kiddush

I've been attending a shiur on hilchot shabbat. We learn from the materials put together by Tzurba, which is gemara, shulchan aruch, mishne brura and some achronim. I'm really enjoying it, especially since I love learning gemara, but here, we also learn the practical, halachic implications.

The latest shiur left me a little puzzled.
In our post-feminist society, modern, but halachically careful women have been braking boundaries. Women minyanim have been popping up everywhere, women are proving to be serious learners and they are taking up more religious practices that were previously only done by men.
In a lot of my newly married (especially Israeli) friends the wife is the one to make hamotsi on shabbes. I've gotten used to this, even though we personally don't do this.

But did you know that when it comes to Kiddush, women and men both have a chiyuv doraita? And hence, women can be yotzei men. In fact, since a man says veyechulu in shul, he has actually already fulfilled his chiyuv doraita (not derabbanan) and some suggest it's even better if the wife makes kiddush (if she hasnt been to shul) since she still has a chiyuv doraita and derabbanan.

In fact, everyone agrees (when does that happen???) that a women can be yotzei a man in her own house, and only some achronim say that for tsniut reasons she shouldn't do it in front of non-family members.

Now, this really makes me wonder. How come has making hamotsi been accepted as being something a woman can do, and yet kiddush is never done by a woman? If women truly want to be able to do all they can within halacha, why is this one (which is conveniently not controversial) so easily ignored? I'm really stumped on this one. Anyone have any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Women Want

I've been struggling with this for a while and have decided to put my thoughts "on paper" as to hopefully get some perspective.

In our world today, women seem to have all the possibilities they could ever want in life. Modern Orthodoxy has opened up a whole new reality of women's learning. Women are not mere followers of their fathers, brothers and husbands, but some are coming out and becoming halachic leaders, like the yoatzot halacha. But also academically, we have come very far. However, our Jewish ideals still stand. Women in the dati leumi community are still getting married early, having children, yet somehow they are managing to combine it with a university degree.
When I got married I told my husband that if I would become pregnant during my studies, I would surely never get my degree. I mean, the odds were against me as it was, with my poor Hebrew. Add kids into the equation and the lack of family in Israel to help us out; I was sure I would never manage. In the end, I had two children during my studies and I passed with flying colors.

I thought I had won the war, but it turned out, it was only one battle. Now I have a BA, little kids and am trying to start my career. I don't mind not having an actual career. I studied something in humanities and am not looking to be academically successful. But here comes the clash. I believe in the importance of being a mother and raising your kids. Add in the factor that I live in a place with a weak Jewish structure making it up to us to teach our kids the dati values we believe in. However, I also need to be intellectually challenged. Before I found a job, I was just going through the motions at home, feeling lonely and apathetic. Now, I come home and appreciate my family. Also, I work better under pressure. The more I've got on my plate, the better I perform.

The reality is though, we still have to compromise on something. Either I put my kids in full time day care (which in my case isn't even Jewish) or I only work part time. Starting off your career in a part time job isn't exactly the road to success. It means taking a job that I am overqualified for and it's only slightly related to what I really want to do. I've now, however, chosen the latter. It still feels good to get out, but I wish I could do something more challenging. It is my own choice to compromise my career for my family, but somewhere there's still this itch. I need something more. Now I feel like I go to my work to help out, not to actually work and use all my skills and abilities. And quite frankly, I don't want to feel that all the work I put into my degree has not led me anywhere.
So now, I've found my niche. I have decided to focus on writing, hence this blog. I'm trying to write a novel, which has been intellectually challenging and stimulating, while also using my degree and Jewish ideals. And as for my Jewish knowledge, I'm trying to learn an amud a day as to prepare for a learning program I would like to join when I get back to Israel.

I'm wondering how other women have been coping with this, so please share. Do you feel like you're forced to compromise? Which side of the coin have you chosen? And Why? What do you do to feel fulfilled if you don't have your career?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shopping, European Style

After reading this blog post I got inspired to write about my new shopping experiences.

1. I always feel like I should be ashamed of my shopping habits. About 95% of the people shopping here use a nice small basket. Apparently, it's much more convenient to go every day and buy only a few things, than buy a lot at once (which of course explains the tiny in built fridges that cannot handle 2 pots, let alone a 3-day yom tov).

2. After getting over the embarrassment of taking the big shopping cart, you realize it's actually not really a bit shopping cart, but about half the size of the one I'm used to in Israel. Which of course causes an even bigger feeling of embarrassment when your cart ends up overflowing.

3. The fruits and vegetables are insanely expensive, except for the few weeks they're in season.

4. I have to shop at at least 3 different stores (but often more than that), just to get what I need. The kosher list isn't that big and unfortunately the supermarkets don't sell the same products. So to get all I want, I have to go to at least 2 different ones, plus the meat, plus the kosher products store. And if I wanted to save a little money I'd have to go to yet another supermarket where their drinks and snack food are a little cheaper.

5. Just getting to the supermarket is a little overwhelming. There are about 10 parking spaces available right next to my local supermarket. Plus the parking meter only takes a 50 cent coin and nothing else, as do most other parking meters. Do they really expect everyone to have an endless supply of all these coins?

6. Do not go shopping before a Christean holiday. People here freak out if the supermarket is going to be closed for even just a day (see point 1.). The two days before this happens, the supermarket is packed, all day long, with people trying to buy enough food to make it through this catastrophe.

7. For some reason, the store I go to only writes the price on the product itself. Which means, if you want to see how much it costs, or want to compare, you have to pick up each and every product. Although, to give them some credit, by the end of 2010 they have realized this isn't the most practical and are starting to put up prices in the store.

8. A good point is that they deliver. You can order online, which is really nice and convenient. You do have to order at least a kilo of the fruits and veggies and of course pay nicely for shipping. Though, to be fair, it's kinda nice that they provide a coolbox for your fridge products, even if it does cost extra.

9. So now you made it to the cash register. You feel really pressured. There are lots of people in line with only a few products in their basket. If this had been Israel, I would have let them go in front of me. But here if I'd do that, I'd never get a turn. There isn't much space, so you have to pack really fast. There's always a lot going on (cranky baby, which is of course not an option in the overly polite country where such noises are an intruding on people's privacy) and I end up feeling totally overwhelmed.

10. Trash bags are a novelty here. You have to use special ones given out by the municipality. First off, they're very expensive (there's a whole technique to throwing out your trash, but this is definitely for another post). But besides this, you can only get them at the cash register. Now, after reading nr 9, you can imagine how often I haven't come home with them. I guess if you go on daily trips for only a few items then it's not hard to remember this one.

I'm sure there's more, but I can't think of any right now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Surviving the Chaos

My home is a mess. Not dirty, but very messy.
I had to work 4 days in stead of 2 last week and ever since then I'm off course and fighting to do all the chores I have to do. It just doesnt seem to matter how much I do, there's always another mess waiting. Ah, the joys of little kids. The best is when you're cleaning up in one room only to find that in that time your kids weren't sitting nicely and playing, but actually they were preparing a whole new mess for you to clean up. So unless you install them in front of the paralyzing machine (aka the tv), it really doesnt help to clean up during the day. But then comes the evening. Your husband is finally home and you'd like some quality time. Also, you spent most of the day playing kids games, cooking, sometimes even working and keeping the mess to a minimum, so who wants to spend their evenings cleaning up?
Hopefully next year I will have some time alone at home during the day so I can get stuff done. The daycare system isnt like in Israel. Here, the  Jewish education only starts at the age of 2.5. Of course, there are non-Jewish options (which are crazy expensive), but even amongst the non-Jews here the mentality seems to be that mothers stay at home till their kid is at least 2. And lets not forget that everyone has a nanny. 

Oh well, I'm going to go back to fighting against the tide of unfolded laundry and dishes galore. Again, at least it's clean.