Ithaca Library sale

The fantastic Ithaca event that is the twice-yearly library sale in on the last couple of days, the last day (tomorrow Tues Oct 29th) being the famous “fill a shopping bag with books for $1” day.

If you’re unfamiliar with this event, check out the website. It must be the most fantastic used book/magazine sale in the world (hyperbole? let me know if there is anything better). An enormous warehouse full of books opens up to the public twice a year for three consecutive weekends. As the sale progresses, the prices, which are reasonable to begin with, progressively decrease. Today’s price for hard cover books is 10 cents!

I popped in yesterday thinking that the place would be pretty picked over and quickly realized there are still lots of gems available. I started browsing and picked up a hard cover copy of Deborah Lipstadt’s “The Eichmann Trial”.

Eichmann trial

I began reading and was mesmerized. I could not stop, reading intermittently that evening and finally finishing this morning. It’s a superbly written and gripping account that puts this historical event into current perspective. There is a superb chapter that analyzes Hannah Arendt and the response to “Eichmann in Jerusalem“. The most breathtaking achievement of the book for me was the eloquent case Lipstadt makes for the significance of the Eichmann trial event in contemporary discourse on all levels, cultural, sociological, legal, geopolitical, the difference between the public and private faces of leadership.

If anybody wants to borrow this book please let me know, I heartily recommend it and I’m planning on going back to the library sale in the next couple of days hoping to discover other books.

Dear friends, how do you find good books to read?


Natalie has neshamah

Just fabulous, Natalie Dessay with Michael Legrand. Click on picture for link.

YouTube song ND

It takes a very special artistic talent to walk the fine line between schmaltz that is slushy and sentimental and schmaltz that is meltingly powerful.

Please note, this is not a judgement on the merits of one versus the other, there’s definitely a place for all varieties of schmaltz and sometimes you’re in the mood for the sentimental type (I adore Rick Moranis’ “My mother’s brisket & other love songs”).

Listening to Natalie’s rendition of this song gives me goosebumps. And I’ve never seen Yentl (the movie) or read the story. I just adore this artist and it’s an extra special oomph to know she’s a member of the tribe.

The song is from her new album, “Entre elle et lui”. I wonder if we could have this CD available at the Chanukah fair?

Entre elle et lui#Ruth

Movie Monday Oct 21st

Monday October 21st FOOTNOTE (2011, Israel)

footnote poster

7:15PM Willard Straight Theatre, Cornell University

Admission: $8 general/$6 seniors/$5.50 students/$5 CU grad students

Synopsis: Rival professors in the field of Talmudic Studies, a father and son face off when a prestigious award is bestowed upon the elder scholar.

Official website with trailer

Interview with director Joseph Cedar

This movie has fantastic reviews. I would love, love to go but, when you are a working mum with a lot of things you’re already committed to be spending time on, it is not so straightforward.

How one organizes and prioritizes one’s time at different phases of one’s life is a huge topic of its own. I don’t want to get into that here, rather I would like to point out something I’ll call the “hidden value of the no-shows”.

Anybody organizing an event, wants people to show up. That’s obviously the best possible outcome. And yet, even for people who can’t make it, the mere fact that this event is being organized has an impact. I had never heard about this movie until I received a notice about the Cornell showing. And now I know about the movie and can add it to my list of movies I’d like to see. If I had merely read about this in a news feed, I would definitely be interested given the synopsis and reviews. But it is the double whammy of the event being organized locally in addition to the more abstract information that elevates wanting to see the movie, tipping it into something I really don’t want to miss (and fortunately, this movie is accessible and can even be acquired through iTunes so one doesn’t have to miss out completely!).

This has two sources of value. First, as an individual, I have been informed and educated about something I had no idea about. Learning about something potentially stimulating and enriching is always enjoyable and I appreciate that opportunity. Second, events of this type provide a conversation point for community discussion. I will inevitably run into friends who attended the movie, and we can discuss issues raised by the movie, what we learned from it, additional Israeli cultural events etc..

Yes, it is not as good as participating and actually being physically present, but it is still a spin-off benefit with impact.

Like many others, I have wrestled with different levels of attendance at community events, both as an organizer and a participant. This issue is keenly felt in Ithaca given our demographics and location.

We definitely need to both increase the participation rate and also to grow our community. However, we should not forget the upside to this challenge. If fewer people turn up than we hoped or expected, we get to have a more intimate, perhaps deeper exchange with a more profound impact (I have a great example of this from my own experience which is too much of a digression to post here but please feel free to have an offline conversation with me about it).

The opportunity for a more intimate exchange can be immensely valuable and can strengthen commitment and participation of those present.

And for those who can’t be at the event we should remember that they may well have really really wanted to participate. Simply learning about an event communicates valuable information. This information can educate, stimulate future interest and have other beneficial impacts. As an organizer I might take personal disappointment at the no-shows, but as a community member, I need to think about the bigger picture and the “hidden value of the no-shows”.


Adon Olam + 3 tenors

Very enjoyable; lush and schmaltzy. A real treat.

Click on picture to play.

play 3 tenors

If you’ve noticed a bit of an Adon Olam obsession (see postings here and here), you’re not the only one. I recently realized I’ve had an Adon Olam obsession my whole life, it’s only lately that I’ve been able to indulge it.

I would like to make a separate page with links to different tunes for Adon Olam. I welcome any suggestions.


Lech Lecha

Scene: It’s an evening a long time ago and Terach (who’s in the idol manufacturing business) is lounging around with his wife on their prized sheepskin rug.

Other characters: Avram, son of Terach and Avram’s wife Sarai

TERACH’S WIFE: Terah sweetie, something is really wrong, you’re looking a quite troubled. What’s going on?”

TERACH: Honey, had a terrible day today, the business is in tatters. Literally.

TERACH’S WIFE: What are you talking about? Don’t be so pessimistic, as soon as the winter is over people are going to start needing new idols and business will pick up.

TERACH: Honey, I’m going to be straight with you. Our son Avram went crazy today, he says that there’s only one God, a God you can’t see or touch, idol worship is wrong. It’s a 180˚ from everything he grew up with. And, I hate to tell you this but you’re going to find out sooner or later. I came back to the shop after my lunch break. The entire stock was smashed to pieces except for that huge idol, you know, the one that’s been on special for weeks. Abram claimed that this idol lost his temper and smashed the other idols. When I pointed out how utterly crazy this all was, our son just looked at me, asked me how I could worship something that couldn’t do anything. He laughed in my face and walked out the shop. Honey, where did we go wrong, our son has everything, a beautiful wife, I just adore that girl Sarai. I’m going to set him up in a great business. Why can’t he settle down? What’s going on?

TERACH’S WIFE: Darling darling, calm down, I’m going to call him, let his mother talk to him.

Some time later, Avram’s phone rings. He picks it up, rolls his eyes when she sees who’s calling but answers it nonetheless.

TERACH’S WIFE: Son, it’s your mother here. Your Dad is really upset, I’ve never seen him so upset. What is going on? And when are you and Sarai going to settle down and start having kids? I’m not getting any older you know. We’re your parents and we love you. You’ve got to realize, there is nothing wrong with idols. Everybody worships idols. EVERYBODY. We all do it. We’ve done it for years and years. You’re saying that everybody is wrong?!? You think you’re better than everybody else? Avram! Avram! I can’t hear you, your voice is breaking up, you sound really distant! What? You’re not at home? Where are you? . . . . . .  You’re on a journey? This is crazy! We need you back here, helping fix the damage to the business. Where are you going? You don’t know where you’re going? You’re just “on the road”? Hand the phone to Sarai, let me talk to her.

Avram hands over the phone to Sarai. His mom is silent for a long time as she listens intently. Her expression is very serious. Sometime later Avram’s mum puts down the phone and turns to her husband Terach:

TERACH’S WIFE: Sweetie, Avram and Sarai have left town. They tell me they’re on their life’s mission. They have left and they are never coming back.

Terach and his wife look at each other. Their lives are changed forever. No more sweeping Avram’s idiosyncrasies under the sheepskin rug and pretending he’ll settle down soon. They feel big changes in the air and are bewildered. Beyond the confines of the immediate family drama they have no idea that their son and daughter-in-law are on a journey to become Abraham and Sarah, a journey with monumental consequences for human history.



ETA More on Abraham’s mother here.