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Welcome!

This blog is not something new. This is what I used to do at Wordpress platform, but hated the interface. So, I moved here.
This blog is about what I love: Israel, Judaism, dancing, volunteering, life.
 For certain reasons this blog is not private as my other blog. This comes with more responsibility.
So, please:
1. Refrain from posting names of people if you criticize them. First of all, this is against the Jewish Law; secondly, nobody has cancelled the tort of defamation yet. And remember: things are never the way we see them.
2. Antisemitism as well as the hatred to any other nations is not welcome and tolerated here.
3. Please keep swear words to the necessary minimum. :)
4. Please come with an open heart and mind. I welcome criticism, but only positive one. If you tell me - oh, Leah that sucks, I will not cooperate. If you tell me: Leah you could improve this and that, I will listen.
5. Please respect the Jewish Law (Halacha). If you don't follow it, you still have the obligation to respect.
6. Please don't be rude. Words sometimes hurt more than actions.

Disclaimer: At this point of my life, I am not practising Orthodox Judaism. I personally do not know what branch of Judaism I belong to: I believe with all my heart that Moshiach is about to come, and I also believe that women should have more involvement in synagogues rather than leading classes such as "Baking Challah with Leah" :) or lighting the candles. (I don't know how to bake challah by the way. I buy it :) ) I also do not think that there is the single way to interpret the Torah, and I do not think there is this magic rebbe, who is always right (if you think he exists, let me know, I'd like to take a quick look!)

You are most welcome to comment or email me. I appreciate feedback. You are also most welcome to repost or give links to any of my posts if you indicate that I'm the author.

What else...
I'm happy to see you here and remember - you are never alone. We are togeher. We are here with you.

Update: this blog now has a mailing list. Scroll down the main page, and you will see the Subscribe to Google groups box. Please subsribe, and you will receive a newsletter every Thursday and Sunday. I am not using the emails you are using in anyway rather than sending out a newsletter, and hopefully you will enjoy it. As always, I welcome your feedback.

Update2: Major, major makeover :) Change of styles, userpics and themes. Hope you will like it :)

The Books I Loved


This post is entirely for myself, but if it can help anyone else, I will be delighted.
the list of books that I read and loved is under lj cut.

Books!Collapse )

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Dear Friends:

I have made a decision to move my blog back to

http://letikvah.wordpress.com/

I have really been patient with Livejournal, but enough is enough. The constant down time and slow interface finally have gotten on my nerves. I hope to see you all on my Wordpress blog.

Love,

Leah.
 


This is It, Amy Winehouse.

I am a big fan of Amy Winehouse. She was extremely talented, raw, unique, and troubled girl. She was also Jewish, which always feels like a special type of connection.
I have always had a problem with comments here and there like Amy is in troubles, does not she realize she needs help? She looks unhappy. Happy people don't do drugs. It is as though people saying that trying to justify that they made better choices in life. I don't think that Amys story is all about drugs and addiction. Yes, this is all a big part of it, and if you are curious to see how addiction looks - just google Amy Winehouse in Serbia. It says it all.

I think all of us made wrong choices in life. Sometimes I go to a very dark place, and you know what? It is not pretty there. Life is i general a very scary place to be. Very few of us end as addicts though/ Yes, we experiement with substances here and there, but I believe there is something more important to Amy's story.

What makes me actually sad is not the thing that most people find saddening - the talent that is born once in perhaps hundreds of years kills herself in binge drinking and shooting up drugs. I am sad for how her life seemed to be going - having this gift, but deriving her happiness from a distructive relationship. I think most girls will agree with me - we all had them. Destructive reationships - ones that make you weak, make you want to stay home and obsess what you could have possibly done wrong, and what he is going to do or say next. And you don't have any power or choice. You follow, oblige and hell who cares, right? Because you are so happy, this what he wants, and yes, yes, yes I want it too.

But most of us grow out of it, or lucky to be ditched, or just something happens and you grow up and stop basing your happiness on Him (He is always with a capital letter in this type of relationship). You just don't do it anymore, not interested, thankyouvermuch.

As it seems to me not in Amy's case. It is extremly sad to see how a talent how suffocated in the life of co-dependancy, co-suffering, her relatinship with Blake. This is just wrong.

So, if there is any lesson for us all there - it is not happy people don't do drugs. They do. It is that happy people do not allow any emotional blackmail and destructive relationships to happen.

Rest in Peace, Amy.

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Utoya

As the scope of the tragedy in Utoya, Norway was unfolding over Friday and the weekend, we could all observe an interesting media phenomenon. The first several hours after the tragedy, when everything was still uncertain, bloggers and media announved that Muslim fundamentalists were responsible for that.
Like who else could do that - was their logic. The Internet was unindated with multiple messages about Islamization of Europe and how Norway was wrong that it allowed all those people to live there.
As it had become clear that the person who killed more than 90 people was not Muslim, but otherwise a Christian fundamentalis, who saw himsef as a modern knight who could erase all these people with different skin colour from his country, the focus shifted. Bloggers, journalists concluded that he was crazy. Sadly enough, there were still hate messages about Muslims and not white people living in Europe. As though they provoked the murderer.
This all makes me incredibly sad. It shows us double standrds the society has - if you are a Jew or a Muslim and do something wrong, you represent your people. They are all like that. If you belong to religious majority in Europe, and do something wrong, you are just a bad person. No conclusions made.

In Europe many people hate outsiders - people with accents, different skin colour like there is no tomorrow. It is not an easy life there/ When you look at this, there are no questions how any genocide, including Holcaust starts. It starts with modern knights trying to help their country to get rid of uknown, looking different and trying to observe their traditions. Recent bans of ritial animal slaughtering in Europe goes along with this sad trend.

We are lucky in Canada that racism and hatred are very subdued here. If one is new to the country, one may even not notice them at all. However, the tragedy in Norway shows that nothing much changed since  the 30s of the 20th century.

 

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne.
 


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Let us face it - we all dread this kind of phone calls - when a caller asks you how you are and then continues - I have news for you. Bad news.
I got mine in December last year. My mom called me and said: Anatoly died in the fire today.
How do you say good-bye to somebody you pretty much knew all life, and you are thousand miles away?
You start remembering little precious moments: going for a walk in the woods, a sunny river, games, and hopes, smiles and tears, badminton and phone calls. He was the only one who was allowed (ever!) to call me - my little one (маленькая моя in Russian). I still start tearing when I hear this phrase.
Anatoly was my dad's best friend, the kind of the friend you call at 2 am, and he comes right in 30 minutes to help. He had the biggest heart and the brightest smile in the world. He rarely did not smile.
I love complex lives, and he sure had one. He was married three times, had one son with his first wife, and then my dad introduced him to one fine lady - they quickly got married - love? Convenience marriage? We would never find out. They had a son; they worked; they went to a cottage in summer.
Was he happy? Well, define happiness. Happiness as marital bliss, no money broblems, a talented kid? Probably not. But as we live in the world of fragmentation, he was the one who could put things together - he could mend, glue, and keep thing firm. He spent hours caring for his bed-bound mother-in-law, and when a bulb expoded in her room, and the fire started he went right in and then tried to save pets - a dog and a cat.
Neither made it out.
So, how do you say good-bye to somebody you expected to always be there even thousands miles away, even when you hadn't spoken for years?
You know what? You don't. You keep on living your life remembering all lessons you learned together, making mistakes, balancing on the edge but never falling, because this is what makes any friendship great. You are never too far or too close.
We all expect to hear  the list of achievements and prizes at the end of somebody's life as though they make your life greater. Anatoly did not have those, but what he did have is the greatest gift of giving and being, that is why he stayed behind in that apartment, in the fire.
He is surely deeply missed every single day.

The only picture where he was not smiling is this one. My mom thinks that he had known what was about to happen, as it was taken the summer before the fire, but I have a different explanation for that: even a person with the brightest smile can have a lousy day.


Royal Musings

I should confess I am seriously disturbed. This all royal insanity in North America with William and Kate visit to Canada and the USA is a bit unusual. Every single day I hear the news - Kate wore a dress by so and so designer. Kate held a hand of somebody for two seconds and improved his/her quality of life significantly. Kate is able to have a profound conversation on the topic of how much her mouth gets tired of all that smiling. Poor girl, I feel for you.

But what really bothers me is that Kate has been announced a role model, for us, modern women in their 20s-30s. She is believed to be so progressive (by royal standards of course) because she co-habitated with William before arriage and has a degree. I am not quite sure whether a combibation of these two makes her a role model or British royal family is so desperate for a role model that anything will go.

Let's get this role model thing straight though:

A young woman who does not work, does not actively do charity, does not have an active say in anything - just silently follows her husband and smiles is supposed to be a role model for us? Really? Really?!

I mean don't get me wrong - they are a lovely couple and apparently in love. Besides, I do think that William strategically made a good logical choice by marrying Kate - she looks good, beautiful, has good manners - a perfect future quuen. But to say that she is a role model is stretching it. Sorry, Kate, I am not signing up for your role model workshops.

Volunteer Rant

A true story: I was really eager to start donating money to one organisation. I went on their website to sign up. Unfortunately, their online donation form did not work.
I emailed them inquiring. No reply.

Sorry, but they lost me. This was a GREAT cause, but unfortunately for everyone - for that organisation and people they support I have principles. I don't think I should be running around waving my money and begging to take my donation or accept me as a volunteer. If there is no same or next day reply, I am sorry but I am fully booked after.

I personally believe that there are great employees in numerous charities out there! I know them personally. However, there are some that do not understand that the way they communicate and do their job directly affects people. They lost one person as a donor, that means fewer donations and less help for their cause. One unhappy person can really spread the message wide. It is not that only major multimillion donors count, besides you never know who is going to become the next multimillionaire :)

So, I think the best strategy in working with potential donors and volunteers is follow up, follow through and follow up again, that for sure will make us interested and engaged. A lot.

Sympathy vs Empathy

As a child, I had always been a bit cold. I did not crying watching cartoons. I was reserved and balanced. My family made me feel guilthy about being not able to fel emotions Teenage years and puberty did make me a bit more emotional, but still my feelings and decision were controlled.

As a young adult, and having read a number of medical books - a very typical thing - self-diagnosing with all possible disorders (thanks to my grandmother's extensive medical library - she is a doctor), I was starting to think I was a psychopath. Well controlled, not feeling emotions much or at all, low level of sympanthy...

But no, my dear readers, don't get alarmed here. I am not a psychopath. Being exposed to a hospice environment for a while, I realize now that most people confuse sympanthy and empathy. They expect you to weep and show you support grieving with them. Sympathy is when you feel sorry for somebody. Empathy is when you realize how painful somebody's siituation is and try to make their life a bit easier. That is true. I can't always show sympathy well, but I always have empathy and manifest it. These are just two different worlds - the world of people weeping with you, and the world of people who leave emotions home and ask - so what are your options now? Some people are able to do both, but I am not that gifted.

I think that is great to have both type of people. I realize it sometimes might be a bit unnerving - the logical and Plan A and B approach.
I don't feel guilty about being who I am anymore. I realize that people like me are able to do things differently, and now with life experience I can weep. Sometimes. But honestly and between us I do prefer a logical approach. It keeps me grounded. It feels like home.

Do You Remember Who You Are?


My friend Chaim has recently accused me of forgetting who I am. Read: forgetting my Jewishness.
I was thinking about it long and hard and happy to report I do remember!
I remember it too well - whenever I hear the news from Israel, read about Holocaust or meet a fellow Jew - I always remember who Iam.

But this being said, I am comfortable in a non-Jewish environment - I can easily go into a Muslim or a Christian community and I feel good there. Still, I remember who I am.

I also feel equally comfortable in a Reform, Conservative or an Orthodox shul. I always remember who I am there.

My Jewish teachers were not nice. If you ask me, they were pretty horrible and often mean. However, they achieved an ultimate goal, I guess. No matter where I go, and who I am with, I always always remember who I am.

Don't you worry guys, I remember. I just don't feel the need to declare it all the time.