About Jane

The gravitar you see is Joey, narrator and protagonist of my book, "DOGS DON'T LOOK BOTH WAYS," 2015 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. Recently I have been film critic for newspapers such as "The Jewish Advocate," "The Jewish Journal" and "The Newton Tab." I love to bicycle, play tennis, and swim, and to participate in local community activities. My favorites are providing food for the needy, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and literacy.

Yizkor: Which Side Are You On?

The rabbi announces “Yizkor” and there is a shuffling of positions. Some remain silently in their seats. Others, myself always included, exit the room.  If it’s a nice day, many of those go outside.

Chances are it would happen, sooner or later, the day when I would not walk out of the room and out of the building and find a place in the sun where I could sit and basque, tilt my face toward the warmth and light, and breathe a sigh. I might wonder what was happening in the room and I might not. What I knew was that some people were in and others were out, that I was usually out; earlier, some whom I hadn’t seen all year were running to be there on time, and others running to be elsewhere.

It is a mystery and a dance. The basics of the dance remain the same each time, but not the characters in it.

Last year I had quickly glanced at the folded booklet – as if I had found my father’s condoms or my mother’s birth control, things I didn’t want to believe or deal with. In the glance I noticed there was a paragraph for a grandparent, or for somebody who gave their life for our faith. All four of my grandparents had long passed. Why, then, could not I not participate in this service? Why was it off limits? Still, it was forbidden. I dare not read more.

This year, as I sat in my seat, the Rabbi as usual requested “All who have not lost a parent please leave the room.” This year I did not join that group. I was tempted to look around. Who were we, those who remained? I sat on the first row, by myself, within arm’s length of the window. It was closed on this cold day in April. Kids were outside playing basketball on the patio. I looked down and found the paragraph for those who have lost a father. We in the room were in the temporary world, our loved ones in the eternal one. My father was in the eternal world, and I was here.

I pledged charity on his behalf.  “A fund-raising gimmick,” I found my brain briefly thinking, and then caught that thought. At a time of loss and confusion – to pledge to give to those in need – works. To others in real need. It restores the balance.

I followed the written lines on the card and prayed for my father to be in Gan Eden. The Garden of Eden. My father in the Garden of Eden?

It was hard for me to imagine him, my father, at least my father’s soul, happy, in Gan Eden. He’d been so wretched in this life but met his end of days bravely and with love for us. Could he be happy for all eternity? Such a thought!

A friend and I talked afterward; I was thinking of my dad but was he thinking of me? How could I know? How could I ever know.

Soon I began chanting to myself Jackson Browne: “Which side, which side, which side are you on?” with its heavy beat and repetition. We were on this side. I was on this side. The ones we prayed for were on the other. Just as my father’s soul cannot come back, neither can I go back to being one who wonders and walks out of the room.

Before the holiday began, as dusk moved in and replaced the daylight, between my husband and me, we had lit four 24-hour memorial candles, my husband three and me one. My first. A full 48 hours after the 24-hour memorial candles were lit, and counting, my father’s alone continued to burn strong.

Yes, I thought, his soul is shining and he’s letting me know what I cannot know.

*shul = synagogue

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Permission to Celebrate

Tonight is the 3rd night of Hanukkah. The first night of Hanukkah my husband and I each lit our own respective menorahs. The second night too.  But tonight my husband is on the road; at 4pm, which is sundown nowadays, it’s just me at home. My husband will be home later tonight, and when he comes home he’ll light his menorah. Meanwhile, mine remains candle-less and light-less. I can’t do it without him?

Of course I can.

The issue, I realize, as I indulge myself on the sofa by the menorah, is that this is the birthday of my father, and it was only two weeks ago when he, my father, may he rest in peace, died.  In a dignified service at a national cemetery, we buried him and honored him, and his life, 9 days ago. So today is the first time we’ve had my father’s birthday without him,  and it’s also Hanukkah, a day of celebration.

The menorah remains unlit in front of the window as it’s darker and darker on the outside of the glass. I can hear the cars drive by, but I remain in my world.

I had a pretty good day. Got up, went to a doctor’s appointment, which had a good result, and went to another doctor’s appointment, which also had a good result. I had reason to feel good about my future.

I haven’t realized it yet but as I lay on the sofa with my feet on the side arm rest, I don’t feel I have permission to celebrate on this particular day, this particular night, which our holiday requires us to do. And this is why I’m dawdling. And feeling sad. It may look like I’m doing nothing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the minutes pass by, I really really need to light these nerot. We cannot live in darkness. The holiday tells us to bring light to our lives and to the world. So I fill the shamash-holder (the servant candle) and three candle holders with candles. I light the shamash, and say my blessings, and light the three nerot, the three candles.

And as I’m doing this, this is what I realize :

My mother and father have given me this beautiful 2,154 year-old legacy of lighting the Hanukkah menorah to have as my own. They’ve given it to my siblings too, to have as their own. Lighting my candles and honoring our holiday honors them too, and honors their ancestors, the unbroken line, all the way back to Abraham.

The legacy also says that there is a time for mourning and a time for celebrating. I have kept my obligatory 7 days of shiva and now taken off my wrinkled mourning shirt, which sits in a heap on my bench. Although I had thought I’d get rid of it when the mourning ended, now I’m unable to throw it away. And now we are into the 8 days of Hanukkah. On this 3rd day and night, it’s time to celebrate our legacy, and it’s time to celebrate, and remember, the lives of those we love and who have given us so much and who have carried on this great tradition and allowed us to do the same.

We can do both.

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What Charlottesville Could Learn from Valencia: The Peace and the Concordance

This is the way it is now, the Placa de Ayunatamiento, in Valencia, Spain.

Not the way I remembered it from the fearful days of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco who, supported by Adolf Hitler, had led the Spanish nation into years of Civil War, countless atrocities and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. People lived in fear long after the Civil War ended, until the death of the Generalissimo in November, 1975.

In fact, when I lived there, in 1975, it wasn’t even called the Plaça de l’Ajuntament. Plaza del Caudillo (Plaza of the Leader), we called it. Even the language was different: Castilian then, Valencian, the regional language, now.

What was most disorienting was the plaza in the background opposite the fountain. Absent was the large monument of Francisco Franco, riding high upon his horse.

“Donde esta la estatua de Franco?” I asked, again and again, to blank faces. On this sunny day in 2012, nobody knew what I was talking about, let alone where the statue was, until one day a man who had obviously suffered through those years offered up the answer.  “The statue,” he said, “had been torn down,” in 1983. He directed us to the Plaça de la Reina (Plaza of the Queen), where we saw this monument to the victims of terrorism, sculpted by in 1998 by José Puche, 23 years after Franco passed from this world.

#Charlottesville could stand a good lesson about remembering those who, 150 years earlier, caused, and led, death, division of country, tyranny and atrocities, and about moving on to a better day for all. The memory of Franco, who had brutally divided a nation, had to come down. The people chose to erect the Peace and the Concordance to represent them, and to guide them, in its stead.

The statue of Franco was moved away from the public, to a military base.

Statues of the “heroes” of the Confederate and rebellious south were erected after the confederacy lost,after 1865, after the Emancipation Proclamation, in order to maintain the de facto status quo of blacks as inferior, fearful of the white ruling class, and stateless. The people of Spain chose to remember the past in their art, in their books, in the pain of a lost generation. They chose to remember their past by choosing something better for all, after unity was restored to Spain and after fascist anti-Semitic Germany was brought to its knees.

Perhaps even the Madrid-based statue of the infamous and fictitious Don Quixote, who roamed the vast country on his steed Rocinante, along with his faithful squire, Sancho Panzo, to restore chivalry and to right wrongs, to (even if foolishly) see beauty even when it didn’t exist, also has a lesson to teach to the tattered remnants of the failed confederacy.

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What’s Your Morbid Hobby?

Life is full of “which is worse” scenarios. There’s the “death by fire” or “death by ice.” Here it is in the poem “Fire and Ice,” as could only have been written by the great American poet Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The political parties have us vying for which is the worse social problem and no, it is not Planned Parenthood. I’ll tell you straight out I’m going with opioid addiction. The biggest threat to our nation. The biggest threat to our people. That’s right, the fact that many people don’t want to acknowledge even exists. And this is why it’s so dangerous.

One of my more morbid hobbies is collecting headlines that deal with opioid addiction and drug overdoses. I’ve been doing it for years, the pile is getting higher, but recently it’s been a real jackpot.

It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I collected the rare articles of addicts who had fought through their addictions and made it. Addicts who had ultimately gone to college and gotten major degrees in major universities. One black American from an inner city who went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School. If I can dig the article out from my ever-growing pile, I’ll add the link here. There were articles about homeless who had gone into halfway houses and used that as a place from which to stabilize their lives, which included finding steady work and thus having a stable and proud income.

I clipped and sent these articles to send hope to a young relative of mine who was an addict and always feeling darkness. “See? You can do it too.” I’d like to think my hobby made a difference, helped this relative make good choices, but it seems like it did not. And now I cannot find the articles, even online.

Several years ago I would talk to a lot of my friends about this problem, and this pain of mine. On days when my relative was being arrested, or days when he was being released from prison, or days when he was beginning rehab and there was hope, I would sit in my seat during religious services and cry to myself. I’m not sure if anybody ever noticed my red eyes or my irregular breathing. If they did, they sure didn’t say anything. A few would tell me an aside about a relative who was an addict if I brought up the topic.

A few years back, my stepson died of an overdose of legally prescribed painkillers, shocking us all. He was a pleasure-seeker but he was not an addict. So my headline search and article clipping widened to include deaths by legally prescribed painkillers for things like, quite simply, pain. You know, those pain centers that are everywhere? Particularly in Florida?

Within the last few years, several parents in my community have lost a young adult child. Some of the parents have been brave and willing to confront this public epidemic. Others have not.

A few years later, after I was already personally grappling with this problem, the headlines expanded to include elderly adults who had been bankrupted by their addict children and grandchildren. I knew about this from personal experience, too.

The Untold Cost of the Opiate Epidemic: Elder Abuse

The headlines have continued to change over the years. In the last election, people started to care about the problem of “solving” the problem by throwing people in jail or prison. Were we creating solutions? Or new problems for even more people? A few times I sat in at a drug court. I saw young hopeless male adults. Five or so young adults would stand in front of the judge, who would ask them if they were on anything at that time. I saw them, in unison, lie. Five No‘s. I saw a pained grandmother as the judge would approve this one for drug court and that one – her grandson – to return to jail.

In the months and years after that, I started seeing headlines about large and small towns that were creating drug courts as a new approach.

This recent headline shows where we’re going, as a nation:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

Get this subheading!

African-American men gained 0.4 year of life expectancy in 2014, to 72.2 years.

My monthly AARP magazine is getting into the act, too, and not just about elder abuse by those seeking to get grandma’s retirement money in order to fund their heroin addiction. Once a place to find articles about cell phones and travel destinations for seniors, this 2011 headline was a first:

Boomers on Drugs

What you didn’t know about grandma!

Opioids and addiction are a national issue now because of the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes attempts to eliminate – just when America is acknowledging this deeply entrenched and growing problem – American’s ability to get detox and rehab not just for the rich, who can afford private pay rehab stays, but for the poor and middle class who cannot. The people who care about this are elderly, farmers, veterans.

About six months ago I sat at a forum in my town for high schoolers, the goal of which was to open up a discussion about opioid dependency and provide referrals for those who needed them, and so on. A few audience members asked questions, and the oldest was about 90 years old and he had become an addict after radiation treatment for cancer. Whoever we are, we are at risk. There is no safe corner.

Yes, this is no longer a problem that white Americans or educated Americans, and so on, can ignore, thinking erroneously that this is “their” problem and not “our” problem. There is no way to hide from this situation.

Sadly, my morbid hobby continues and my pile continues to grow. Urban, rural, east coast, west coast, white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, we are one nation, drug addiction and opioid overdose does not discriminate, and neither should we.

More to follow.

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What You Didn’t Know about Grandma

Life is full of “which is worse” scenarios. There’s the “death by fire” or “death by ice.” Here it is in the poem “Fire and Ice,” as could only have been written by the great American poet Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The political parties have us vying for which is the worse social problem and no, it is not Planned Parenthood. I’ll tell you straight out I’m going with opioid addiction. The biggest threat to our nation. The biggest threat to our people. That’s right, the fact that many people don’t want to acknowledge even exists. And this is why it’s so dangerous.

One of my more morbid hobbies is collecting headlines that deal with opioid addiction and drug overdoses. I’ve been doing it for years, the pile is getting higher, but recently it’s been a real jackpot.

It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I collected the rare articles of addicts who had fought through their addictions and made it. Addicts who had ultimately gone to college and gotten major degrees in major universities. One black American from an inner city who went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School. If I can dig the article out from my ever-growing pile, I’ll add the link here. There were articles about homeless who had gone into halfway houses and used that as a place from which to stabilize their lives, which included finding steady work and thus having a stable and proud income.

I clipped and sent these articles to send hope to a young relative of mine who was an addict and always feeling darkness. “See? You can do it too.” I’d like to think my hobby made a difference, helped this relative make good choices, but it seems like it did not. And now I cannot find the articles, even online.

Several years ago I would talk to a lot of my friends about this problem, and this pain of mine. On days when my relative was being arrested, or days when he was being released from prison, or days when he was beginning rehab and there was hope, I would sit in my seat during religious services and cry to myself. I’m not sure if anybody ever noticed my red eyes or my irregular breathing. If they did, they sure didn’t say anything. A few would tell me an aside about a relative who was an addict if I brought up the topic.

A few years back, my stepson died of an overdose of legally prescribed painkillers, shocking us all. He was a pleasure-seeker but he was not an addict. So my headline search and article clipping widened to include deaths by legally prescribed painkillers for things like, quite simply, pain. You know, those pain centers that are everywhere? Particularly in Florida?

Within the last few years, several parents in my community have lost a young adult child. Some of the parents have been brave and willing to confront this public epidemic. Others have not.

A few years later, after I was already personally grappling with this problem, the headlines expanded to include elderly adults who had been bankrupted by their addict children and grandchildren. I knew about this from personal experience, too.

The Untold Cost of the Opiate Epidemic: Elder Abuse

The headlines have continued to change over the years. In the last election, people started to care about the problem of “solving” the problem by throwing people in jail or prison. Were we creating solutions? Or new problems for even more people? A few times I sat in at a drug court. I saw young hopeless male adults. Five or so young adults would stand in front of the judge, who would ask them if they were on anything at that time.  I saw them, in unison, lie. Five No‘s. I saw a pained grandmother as the judge would approve this one for drug court and that one – her grandson – to return to jail.

In the months and years after that, I started seeing headlines about large and small towns that were creating drug courts as a new approach.

This recent headline shows where we’re going, as a nation:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

Get the subheading:

African-American men gained 0.4 year of life expectancy in 2014, to 72.2 years.

My monthly AARP magazine is getting into the act, too, and not just about elder abuse by those seeking to get grandma’s retirement money in order to fund their heroin addiction. Once a place to find articles about cell phones and travel destinations for seniors, this 2011 headline was a first:

Boomers on Drugs

It’s a national issue now because of the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes attempts to eliminate – just when America is acknowledging this deeply entrenched and growing problem – American’s ability to get detox and rehab not just for the rich, who can afford private pay rehab stays, but for the poor and middle class who cannot. The people who care about this are elderly, farmers, veterans.

About six months ago I sat at a forum in my town for high schoolers, the goal of which was to open up a discussion about opioid dependency and provide referrals for those who needed them, and so on. A few audience members asked questions, and the oldest was about 90 years old and he had become an addict after radiation treatment for cancer. Whoever we are, we are at risk. There is no safe corner.

Yes, this is no longer a problem that white Americans or educated Americans, and so on, can ignore, thinking erroneously that this is “their” problem and not “our” problem. There is no way to hide from this situation.

Sadly, my morbid hobby continues and my pile continues to grow. Urban, rural, east coast, west coast, white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, we are one nation, drug addiction and opioid overdose does not discriminate, and neither should we.

More to follow.

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Film Review: My Hero Brother (2016)

Want to see a light film that you didn’t expect to like but has a subtle and uplifting impact? Read about some incredible sibling relationships, and a lot more!

The film is not in the theaters now, but you’ll be able to find it on Netflix and elsewhere.

Read my published review of the film, My Hero Brother, by Yonaton Nir. Here’s the link, as published in The Newton Tab:

‘My Hero Brother’ shows the treasure we share

And then drop me a comment!

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