Last night listening to Ian McEwen in conversation with Meir Shalev was thrilling since I am such a fan. I admire McEwan’s work so much that I often read one of his sentences and literally have to close the book in total awe, and then when I have recovered from his genius, read the same sentence over again trying to work out how he crafted it. I never can.
And last night he was full of interesting and witty comments, my favourite being that he had intense conversations while over here and mentioned the lack of small talk amongst Israelis. Exactly! When I go abroad I’m always taken aback by the amount of mundane chit chat where Messiah isn’t a household term!
But as much as I enjoyed the dialogue, when asked if he had faith and believed in God, McEwen denied The Almighty’s existence and told the audience he believed in randomness. Poor him and arrogant him. After discussing how he begins a novel and is guided towards his plot and characters, where does he think this all comes from? Additionally, he admitted he was changed by his week in Jerusalem…but if seven days in the holy city didn’t bring him to God Awareness, then how?
I am blessed to see the Hashgasha in everything, all the time. I comfort myself in thinking that maybe that blessing makes up for not being able to write those brilliant McEwan sentences.

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Trapped once again

December 15, 2010

This is my dream – to sit cross-legged on top of a mountain, looking out onto a view of snow-capped peaks and grassy hills below. Of course I am paying attention to my breath and the mantra on my lips allows me to stay in the now. My mind never wanders to the past, never regurgitates suffering. My mind doesn’t flip to the future. I don’t play scenarios of winning the lottery or let fear reign in my brain, thinking of all the terrible calamities that could befall me and my family. I just breathe, in and out. I need for nothing and am grateful for every blessing bestowed upon me. Once I have sat for an hour in mindful mediation, I slowly stretch my body and make my way to the kitchen, and eat a bowl of rice. My only possessions are a change of clothes and a winter coat that fit into a backpack. I am rid of responsibility of matter, of insuring it, of worrying about losing it.
So why is then that I have just fallen into the high tech trap of purchasing an i phone?

A freebie massage!

July 13, 2010

“Would you like a massage?”
Would I? Ohmygod, of course I would with that crick in my neck. But how ethical is it to accept a freebie with so many others in dire need of a dose of TLC.
The lovely young masseuse can’t know that I’m only sitting here in Oncology with a drip in my arm because I feel more comfortable getting my bone-building meds with my doctor’s office up the corridor and the nursing staff greeting me warmly. I’ll flash her my wellness smile and shimmy my healthy head of hair. That should do the trick.
“I’m not sure I’m eligible….”
Flash, flash. Shimmy, shimmy.
She beckons. I follow. I know where we’re going – towards those rooms at the back where the very frail lie in bed receiving chemotherapy. Why is she taking me there? I don’t want to relive that episode of my life. Eight years have gone by and I’ve managed to forget that debilitating treatment, blocked it out of my mind.
The last room, that’s my old room. That basin, the one I vomited into time after time. The bed – my bed near the window where I lay dipping fingers and toes into icy water to prevent my nails falling out! And those sheets printed with the Shaarei Zedek Star-of-David emblem. Oh no! Its all coming back.
But hey! Is that Bach? So relaxing that the patients lying here are practically cooing. Or are those pleasure sighs of having feet massaged and legs caressed.
I sit head forward. No need to lie down for a neck massage. Oh those hands. Paradise.
“Aahhhh! That’s just the spot!”
While my sore muscles melt under the trained fingers of a volunteer Holistic specialist, I question, “What’s happened here?”
Turns out it’s all thanks to the family of late Member of Kenesset, Yuri Shtern, who offer cancer patients the same alternative treatments that benefited their Yuri during his treatment.
Oh no don’t take your hands away! It’s only a temporary glitch to pass me a flyer. Thank God she’s back to kneading my neck…it feels soooooo good.
The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center for Cancer Patients provides treatment for individuals suffering from cancer as well as for their families, at no charge, helping to ease the process and period of the illness.“What a brilliant idea.”
“But it’s only really taken off here, at Shaarei Zedek. Other hospitals felt we were disturbing their routine.”
I know it’s a great department, progressive with doctors making the essential mind/body connection. Otherwise why would I have been offered a delicious slice of home-baked apple strudel upon arrival and a hilarious chit-chat with Bumpsy Mumpsy the clown?
I can feel healing heat flowing through her fingers into my whole being and there’s so much love surging with it. Praise the Lord. I can maneuver my neck to the left.
And to think I was dreading this hospital visit. Thanks to Family Shtern it’s been quite a treat. Imagine how holistic treatments can ease the anxiety of cancer patients and promote their healing. Please, open up your hearts and help facilitate the continuation of this wonderful program. It’ll really make a difference
Donations
Donations to the Yuri Shtern Foundation can be made by:
Credit Card
An international credit card may be used. For secure access press here.

Direct Account Transfer
Swift: IDBLILITJLM
Israel Discount Bank LTD, Bank No. 11
Jerusalem Main Branch, Branch No. 060
Account Name: “The Yuri Shtern Foundation,” Account No. 7092

Send a Check
Make your check payable to “The Yuri Shtern Foundation”
46/1 Shimoni Street
Jerusalem 92623
Israel
For a tax-free donation in the United States, a check may be sent to:
The Central Fund of Israel
c/o Marcus Brothers Textiles
980 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Attn: Arthur Marcus
In the memo, please note: “For The Yuri Shtern Foundation”
Please let us know of your donation by writing us at info@yurishtern.org.il.
Thank You!

Chabad in Mumbai

November 29, 2008

I’ve traveled in Europe and in Asia with my children and we have  enjoyed the hospitality and the Shabbes atmosphere in Chabad Houses so much that I chose to end my memoir at a Chabad House in Rishikesh. I am devastated at the tragic news from Mumbai.  The emissaries from Chabad are devoted Jews who sacrifice so much in bringing Torah and Kedusha to traveling Jews, making them feel at home in foreign lands.  Baruch Dayan Emet.

 

 

Congratulations to the people of America and to Barack Obama.  I watched Obama’s acceptance speech many times throughout the day and relished in the joy and celebrations, hoping that we, the Jewish people will also celebrate soon, when we will finally have a leader to show us the way.

In Jewish law, when one sees a monarch, we are commanded to say the blessing, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, who has given from His glory to flesh and blood” as a king is considered a reflection of the majesty and authority of God Himself.

When I saw Obama stand in front of millions of adoring fans, who believe he is their hope for the future, I had an inkling of how it will be when Moshaich comes.  I saw his success as a reflection of the day when we Jews will all come together as one people, filled with love and hope.

May it happen speedily in our days. Amen.

My parents always wanted me to attend a UJIA meeting.  I mean, all the young people in our synagogue belonged. They got together to raise money for Israel and had fun at the same time.  I was never interested in joining one of these groups – my extra curricular activities were more of the self-destructive kind. 

So you can imagine how surprised I was to have been invited by the UJIA to be their guest speaker in three cities in the UK last week. I felt as if I was finally where I was supposed to be, finally in the right milieu, even if it was so many years down the line!

I was impressed by the ladies I met, by their devotion, generosity and love of Israel, and by the staff who worked hard to arrange events (special thanks to Chen Shilat) and Zak Gazit, who accompanied me up north, a sweetheart who left a comfortable life in Israel to work for the charity.

I enjoyed speaking to the UJIA audiences who gave me such a warm reception, I  wonder why it took me so long….

In Answer To The Press….

January 13, 2008

I could never have imagined that there would be so many different comments to my book. They have ranged from calling me Rebbetzin and saying my book is so holy it will surely bring Messiah, to calling my memoir ‘soft porn.’ Many have congratulated me on my honesty and written me letters telling me how they identify and how I have given them strength in their own lives. Others condemn me for letting the cat out of the bag, sensationalizing Judaism, being narcissistic and only after making money.

First of all, I would like to say that I wrote my memoir with love and respect for my parents, for my family and for the Torah. I sympathize with Anglo Jewry who knew my parents and heard of my mother’s unfortuate death in the press, even though I believe anyone really close to her would not have been surprised by this. My memoir is an honest look at the ultra-orthodox world, at Anglo Jewry and the real problelms that exist in many families. Exposing the truth can sometimes be painful. I am well aware that I have pushed many uncomfortable buttons – but in the final analysis of the variety of reactions I have received, my conclusion is that positive poeple see the positive, the moving story, the love of Torah and the importance of sharing the depths of my self-destruction in order to help others. Negative people easily catch onto details and blow them out of proportion in order to feed their own fears of facing the truth head on.

I have a wonderful relationship with my children. They have witnessed the changes that I have undergone. They are proud of me that I don’t indulge in any self-destructive behaviour anymore. When they are older and will read the book, I have no doubt that their feelings will only be strengthened after realizing the extent of the demons I had to battle with.

Parents only want wholeness for their children. I believe if my parents were looking down from heaven, they would be delighted that after 45 years of struggle, I have found myself and my path. To those who consider I have betrayed my family, you are mistaken. I have left them a legacy of truth and honesty. I have shown them the way to strength and overcoming diffiuclties, traits that will surely help them far more in their own lives than sweeping inconvenient truths under the carpet.

Light Fell

December 30, 2007

My friend Evan Fallenberg who is on his way to the States for a publicity tour for his new book ‘Light Fell’ (Soho Press) read from his novel last night to an audience of friends, family and students.  I was delighted to be present. 

The phrase nafal nehora is Aramaic for Light Fell and it was used in the Talmud to describe a sudden overwhelming desire.  It is this very desire that Evan writes about in his intriguing and touching story that opens with a married man experiencing nafal nehora, a tremendous sexual longing for his rabbi. 

When I read this book, I was fascinated by this image of nafal nehora, a spark of heavenly light that opens our eyes to who we really are and what we really want.  In my mind, such a moment of enlightenment is a true blessing and one that I have been privileged to experience in my own personal way and use it to change my life around. 

I feel sure that Evan’s book will have a profound effect on many readers, strip blindfolds off weary eyes and allow for buried truths to surface.

I wish him every success.

At an interfaith meeting at the beautiful home of my dear friend Rafi Marrache, Christians, Muslims and Jews share insights into their respective holidays – Chanukah, Christmas and Eid al-Adha – that are all celebrated this time of year.

I am eager to learn about other festivals, the slaughering of goats and lambs to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son (Ishmael) and the giving of those meats to the poor.  I want to delve into the birth of Jesus and find the deeper meanings behind tinsel and fairy lights down Regents Street.

Alas, none of the explanations move me and I feel disconnected from the group.  It is only when Emunah Witt, disciple of the the late Shlomo Carlebach and mother of fourteen children addresses the crowd that my heart truly opens and I feel the presence of God uniting us.

Quoting Shlomo, Emunah explains; “When a Jew sits in a Succah booth, wherever he may be – in England, Australia or even Alaska – he is actually sitting in Jerusalem and when a Yid lights the Chanukah menorah, he is right there in the holy temple.”  

“I’m looking for the Pastor’s office,” I say, aware of how bizarre this phrase sounds tumbling from the mouth of a rabbi’s daughter.

The six foot hunk to whom I have posed my question is smiling a welcome. I am dazzled by his teeth that shine fluorescent and enjoy the support of his steady hand under my arm as he steers me through the labyrinths of the state-of-the-art Morning Star Baptist Church facility.

Families decked out in their Sunday best are readying themselves for services. The women wear elegant suits with glittery accessories, feather boaters or Ascot large-brimmed hats. Pigtailed children in shiny patent leather pumps chat happily together. Rastafarians wear their dreadlocks long falling down their crisp cotton shirtsleeves. These people are dressed to praise the Lord.

As I am on the way to the airport for a 12 hour flight in the crammed coach quarters back to Tel-Aviv, I wear comfortable sweat pants and Nike airs, but am mourning the opportunity of wearing my silk cocktail outfit packed in tissue paper in my suitcase. Alas, I am so under-dressed I stick out far more than being the only white person here.

The pastor Rev. Dr John M. Borders 3rd rises from behind his mahogany desk as he sees me approach. He shakes my hand warmly, pecks my cheek and introduces me to his wife and his mother, two elegant women. I cannot help but compare this religious family to my own, my father a spiritual leader and my mother, the chic rabbi’s wife. The pastor delivers me into the capable hands of his minister and I am honored to be shown to a front row pew.

The sanctuary with a high domed ceiling is light and airy and down below I drink in the familiar scene of a congregation finding their seats before prayer. Yet this crowd couldn’t be more removed from my father’s congregants if I were on Mars. I quickly deduce that the main disparity between the London Jews and the Boston Baptists is their anatomy. The robotic British jerky movements make for a rigid atmosphere when lips move ventriloquist- like on top of stiff necks and dainty feet tiptoe along the aisles. Here hips swirl, pelvises pulsate and curvaceous bodies undulate to the beat in blissful communion.

Scattered among the crowd I notice ten African-American nurses in crisp white uniforms and conclude that there must be a hospital nearby whose staff have come to pray for their patients. I think about how my hypochondriac father loved to surround himself with doctors. With a cardiologist on one side and a surgeon on the other, my father felt safe and I am sure he would have gleefully advocated the presence of members of the healing profession in his own sanctuary.

The choir of twenty sways to and fro on stage next to the band – electric guitarist, drummer and pianist – who are funking it up for the six singers dressed in matching black and red tight fitting outfits, jiving and crying out to the Lord on high.
“I don’t care if I don’t have any money!”
“I don’t care if I don’t have any friends…because I have Jesus. Oh yea, I have Jesus.”

This chorus brings the entire assembly to their feet. Fancy shoes are tapping, ringed fingers reach for the sky, eyes close in deep communion with God, hands clap, brows furrow and perspiration drips down happy faces. I am clapping too, but limited by my constricted heritage I am off beat. This is what God really wants from us, I think, to worship Him and have fun at the same time.

Rev. Borders has taken his place on centre stage. “I met a woman,” he drawls. “Her name is Reva Mann and she has written a very honest memoir called The Rabbi’s Daughter. I want to bless her for international success.”
Applause.
I am grinning from ear to ear.
“I met her on the Urban Update TV chat show where we both appeared only forty-eight hours ago. She is from Jerusalem and ultimately we are all from Jerusalem.”
I nod. There is nothing hostile here towards being Jewish. I feel sincere acceptance.
Applause.
“She is going to sing a tune of her people today for us and then we are going to overwhelm her.”

Am I really going to do this, I think as I mount the stage and skip up the carpeted steps embarrassed by my casual attire. But my audience are smiling and radiating love. It is with their encouragement that I begin to sing my father’s melody, ‘Ose shalom bimromav — he who makes peace in the heavens will make peace on earth and for all of Israel.’ When I get to the word Shalom, a word that is repeated at the end of each stanza of my song, a word my audience instantly recognizes, they jump to their feet, swinging and singing along; Shalom! Shalom! Peace on Israel, Amen.

Back at my pew, the lady next to me is in a trance. Shouting out to the Lord, she seems to be having a religious epiphany. The commotion has brought two nurses to stand by her side. They are fanning her to cool her down from her ecstasy and circling her to protect her neighbours lest she fall or faint. The pastor is pointing to the upper gallery where he has spotted another member of his flock experiencing Jesus, thus indicating to another nursing couplet to take charge.

How naïve I have been, thinking there was a hospital nearby. I have always loved gospel music but never realized how far it can reach into the depths of the soul.

I leave the service early to catch my flight a changed woman after experiencing unwavering faith and the pure joy of worship. I want to hold onto this knowledge and take it back home with me to the Holy Land and use it to jazz up my own tefilla.