Category Archives: Thoughts On….

Thoughts on Jane Austen’s Birthday

It takes a bold person to go against the grain.

In her own time, Jane Austen may not have appeared to go her own way. In her time, a woman’s job was to marry, bear children, and maintain the home. The only way to maintain her legal rights was to remain single. Upon saying “I do”, she and her husband were in the eyes of the law, one person. If she was lucky, she had a basic education, some sort of inheritance coming her way, and a male head out household who at least respected her wishes.

But she did, and in doing so, paved the way for future generations to do the same.

Her books may end in “happily ever after”, but they are so much more than that. She talks about how women are disenfranchised in her world. Marriage was not just about finding the right person. It was a business arrangement. But Austen does not just get on a soapbox. She uses her narratives to speak directly to her readers. Whether it was about family relationships, one’s potential or current spouse, or even silly gossip, her stories are timeless. It is those qualities that keep us coming back to her novels, even when we have read them more times than we can count.

Happy Birthday, Jane!

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Charging the Parents of the Oxford High School Shooters is Absolutely Necessary

Another week, another school shooting in America.

On Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy (who shall not be named in this post) walked into Oxford High School in Michigan and started shooting. He killed four classmates and wounded seven others.

This firearm was given to him by his parents as an early Christmas present less than a week before the massacre. His parents have been charged with four counts of homicide involuntary manslaughter. As of yesterday afternoon, they were absent from their court appearance.

Ryan Busse, a former executive from a major gun company, published his memoir recently. Introduced to weapons as a young man by his parents, he received a message very early on how dangerous they could be.

Though forcing the shooter’s parents into court will not bring back the teenagers who were killed, I am hoping that it sets a moral and legal precedent. They could have made it absolutely clear that there were caveats and responsibilities attached to this gift. Just as a sixteen-year-old is limited to where they can drive once they get their license, the rules about where and when he could use it should have been crystal clear.

Instead, his parents gave him carte blanche to do as he wanted and as a result, the lives of four families will never be the same.

Maybe the memories of these innocent souls forever be a blessing.

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Thoughts on the 3rd Anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

There is a joke about Jewish history: “they tried to kill us, we survived. Let’s eat”. But like any joke, there is a truth behind the laughter. Though we are still here, the collective emotional scar of the losses is still with us, even if it is generations after a specific event.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. To even type those words hurts. It could have happened in any synagogue in America. But this person chose to walk into Tree of Life and started shooting. What I remember about that day is the fear as I watched the news. I have not attended services reguarlarly in decades, but I have family who does. My initial fear was that this heinous act had reached my relatives. Thankfully, it didn’t.

The message that was sent did not need to be spoken. According to the gunman and those who think like him, we do not belong in this country. Our “differences” (which are merely on the surface) mark us for at best being questionable outsiders and at worst, put a target on our backs. I would love to say that in the three years since 11 innocent people were murdered, that this was the turning point away from hate and prejudice. Unfortunately, as we all know, it wasn’t.

May the memories of those killed that day be a blessing. Z”L.

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Thoughts on The Jagged Little Pill Controversy

Art has a way of changing the world as few things can. But that does not mean that the final product is approved of by everyone in the audience.

When the musical Jagged Little Pill (based on the Alanis Morissette album of the same name) hit Broadway opened at the end of 2019, it was met with rave reviews. The story of the Healy family and their struggles spoke to the shit we all go through everyday. With the show re-opening at the end of the month, there has been some issues with the character of Jo, played by Lauren Patten.

If what has been said is true, Jo was supposed to be non binary, but was written as a lesbian. In the statement released by the producers, they will be reworking the role to reflect the criticism.

One of the topics that has come up with this controversy is representation. I completely agree that representation these days is super important. Though there has been a vast improvement in both the image and numbers of non cis-gender heterosexual Caucasian men in the media, the truth is that we have a long way to go in truly reflecting the audience.

Speaking as a writer, one of the aspects of this conversation that is missing is how Jo evolved from the first draft until the premiere. In the process of writing, both characters and narrative change over the course of the creation of the work. What also may have happened is tryouts and previews, she was tweaked by both the actor, the writer(s), and the director until everyone was satisfied with the final product.

I have two concerns with everything that is whirling around Jagged Little Pill. The first concern is that it will ultimately force the show to close. When a scandal erupts over an IP, one of two things happen. The first is that it arouses interest and brings in audiences who otherwise would have passed it by. The second is that the scandal become so overconsuming that the executive team has no choice but to call it quits.

The second concern is that producers will look the scandal and if they see a script that is similar to JLP, it will go into the “no pile”. Not because of the quality of the work, but because of the possibility of negative press.

Only time will tell if JLP survives or closes. My hope and my prayer is that it survives because it proves that there is room for creativity and new concepts on Broadway.

P.S. Lauren won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical last weekend. It is an honor that is well deserved.

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Thoughts on Yom Kippur 2021

If there is one thing we all take for granted, it is life itself. Then we are reminded how quickly we can go.

Tomorrow night is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Jews around the world will fast for 25 hours and pray that our creator writes us in the book of life for another year.

Between the more than 600,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19 and the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this past weekend, the reminder that life is precious has been more than obvious.

One of the most important prayers is called U’Netaneh Tokef. One of the passages in the prayer is as follows:

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

Yesterday, death came close to home. To say that I am grieving and shocked is an understatement. A friend passed away. I haven’t seen her since before the pandemic and have only spoken to her once since last Spring. Now I wish I had stayed in touch. We need to tell the ones we love how we feel when they are here, not when they are gone.

Z”L my friend. RIP.

To everyone fasting, have an easy fast and may you be written into the book of life for another year.

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Thoughts on a 2nd Covid Rosh Hashanah

Our lives are busy. Between work, school, family, etc., the days easily get away from us. We can easily forget who and what is important as we go about our lives, focusing on schedules and to-do lists.

The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah is next week.

This is the second year in which Covid-19 has changed the way we do everything. I know it’s extremely cliché, but the last 18 months have been difficult. Sometimes, we have to be reminded to stop and think about what and who is truly important as a pose to what we think is necessary. This virus has held up a collective mirror, forcing us to reckon with reality in ways that many of us have avoided.

Though I have had many troubles over the past year (my mental health issues among them), there are still things to be grateful for. I am grateful for my health, the people I love, my job, my writing, and most of all, the fact that I can still wake up in the morning.

To everyone celebrating, shana tova and may you have a sweet new year.

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Thoughts on Andrew Cuomo’s Resignation

When the sh*t hits the fan, a wise person knows when to call it a day.

Yesterday, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that in two weeks, he will be stepping down from his post. Kathy Hochul, who is presently Lieutenant Governor, will step into the job for what would have been the rest of Cuomo’s term.

It was the wise choice, if not the only choice. I have a feeling that if he would have continued to fight the charges, he would have been impeached, which given everything that is going on now, is the last thing we all need.

The sad thing is that this is how he will be remembered. Like Bill Clinton before him, his legacy will forever be tainted by his arrogance. During the worst of the pandemic, he used to come on TV everyday and talk about that day’s virus related figures. Compared to a former President, he was a reasonable and calming presence.

And unlike you know who, he knows when it is time to throw in the towel.

What bothers me is the following statement:

 “In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate.”

Was he living under a rock during the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby cases? Did he not see the media firestorm and the career crash that followed?

If he was not aware, why then did he sign the anti-sexual harassment law two years ago? Or was he so full of it that he thought he was above the law?

The only way to end this chapter is to continue with the impeachment, even if he is no longer in office. If it is dropped, it says that one only needs to resign from their job. A message must be sent that there are consequences to such actions are unacceptable. If the Democrats upstate do not do this, they are as bad as the Republicans in D.C. who looked the other way when you know who was accused.

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Thoughts On the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre

Hate is powerful. It turns us away from the humanity of our fellow mortals and only shows us the negative stereotypes we want to see.

This past weekend was the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It is one of the worst episodes of racial violence in American history. The Greenwood District of Tulsa, in Oklahoma was known locally as Black Wall Street. Outside of the Greenwood District, the residents knew that they would be treated as second class citizens. But inside of the district was another story. It was a vibrant and thriving community that disproved the racist ideas about African-Americans. Unfortunately, some Caucasian members of the community had their minds blown by this success and used the accusation (which has not been verified) that a black man attacked a white teenage girl.

By the time the dust settled, hundreds were dead and the neighborhood looked like a war zone. To make matters worse, it was not spoken of until recently. In light of the fact that this disgusting event has been buried, both WNYC and CNN told the story of the destruction. The new six part podcast, Blindspot: Tulsa Burning, and TV movie, Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street, told the compelling and heartbreaking story of those horrific days. I highly recommend both.

This was a pogrom. The actors and the location have changed, but the reason (if you want to call it that) and the results were the same. I wish that it had not taken a century for this country to remember and honor the memories of those who were killed. But it has. The only thing we can do is talk about it and educate our children so this never happens again.

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Thoughts On the Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death

It is amazing how a year can change us or the world as we know it to be.

One year ago today, George Floyd‘s life was taken by Derek Chauvin. Floyd could have been just another number, another causality of the police brutality against Americans of color. Instead, he became an icon and a match that would light the fire of protest against prejudice and hatred for people across the country and the world.

I wish that it did not have to be this way. Mr. Floyd did not have to die that day. But because he was a black man in America, Chauvin decided that he was both judge and juror.

May the memory of George Floyd forever be a blessing and a reminder of how powerful and pervasive racism can be.

Z”l.

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Thoughts on Jewish American Heritage Month

The best way to combat prejudice and hatred is education and knowledge.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month (JAMH). Given the recent and scary rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes following the latest skirmish in the Middle East, perhaps this month will open the door to conversations and create opportunity for further co-existence.

My family has been in this country for over a century. I am proud of what I can say that those I love have accomplished and what my fellow American Jews have given to this nation. We are only 2% of the population, but what we have done is much more than what the census says.

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