Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
It is a season of Roots as we approach Tu B'Shvat. And I am often reminded of mine...just last week a guy named John Basior emailed me (found me on the internet) and asked if we are related. In fact we are, we figured out - we are 3rd cousins, once removed. And he has a son with the same name as me...and I thought I was the only one!
I talked to my grandparents just today too. They remind me of my roots. I also had a good conversation with a friend this morning about my own personal racism roots. I have some deep ones. What do you guys think about the whiteness of ashkenazi Jews in America? Most of us pass for white...are we white? Certainly we have some/a ton of non-whiteness in our history...
Would love to hear your thoughts...
D in SEA
I'm excited that we seem to be reaching some sort of tipping point where friends are telling friends about our place, but I'm also a little overwhelmed. There is so much good stuff going on - our leadership teams are up and running, which means more leaders, more programs, more integration among everything we do. It's what we've been talking about, and so far it seems to be working. But it is strange to grow this fast.
On Friday night, our davening services were on fire. We gathered upstairs in a smaller room, so that despite our general lack of heating, the room was so packed I had to take off several layers of kabbalisticly white clothing. The 50 or so people at services were crowded, but all directed toward one thing - praying, singing, dancing - all to elevate Shabbat and express gratitude. And, everyone listened raptly as our speaker talked about a local campaign calling on Harvard use its resources to share essential medicines with people in the developing world.
But then at dinner, after another 35 people showed up, I started to notice how many new people there were. I felt a responsiblity to say hello to everyone, but also kind of wanted to hide. It is hard to stay authentic when having that many conversations in a short period of time, especially when your livingroom begins to resemble a New York subway platform at rush hour.
I decided to sit in the kitchen and eat this thai coconut ginger squash soup I made. It's a smaller space, with a table that only fits 4 or 5 people. A couple of close friends joined me, and I realized that, in the midst of the craziness, I could have a good conversation with people I loved. Then some new people sat down, and I remembered that, grounded by my close friends, I could also find personal strength engage new people. So I talked to an activist, a playwrite, a sociology phD, and found out what they were thinking about in their lives. Sharing our stories, gorging ourselves on kugel, it started to feel like home again.
In the morning, when just us and our SIX houseguests remained, our house had a quality of spaciousness that reminded me of the Jewish folktale we acted out in my second grade play. In the story, a man with many children and a tiny home, whose rabbi tells him to bring all of his animals into his house. Only when the Rabbi finally has him clear out the animals does the man appeciate what he has. So, 20 years later, I am gaining a greater understanding of the story -- that home feels spacious when we expand our hearts to love what's inside.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
But seriously, something like 90 folks showed up for our Shabbat last night (props to Margie and Ari for building that thang up to the point that the downstairs neighbors are witholding a lil bit of love these days), and Alyson has voiced a bold thought: "We need to start farming some of this sh*t out!"
Preach it, sister.
Towards that goal, we held our first team dinners this month, pulling together folks to talk about spirituality and learning, arts activities, and a spring social justice campaign. Ideas have been flying around, new folks have been coming out of the woodwork, and it seriously looks like we're about to pick it up a notch.
Since I'm coordinating our social justice work (with much help from the rest of the 'mates), let me just recount what that team meeting was like. About 16 folks showed up, thought seriously about how our community could best contribute to some awesome campaigns going on around town, and picked a few concrete issues to move on.
With the Jewish Labor Committee, we're going to take the lead on this year's Labor Seder. And don't tell Morris, but we're also going to work with Tekiah to further the efforts of the Islamic Society of Boston to build a house of worship for our city's growing Muslim community (since the right-wingers at the David Project have sued to stop 'em...ugh).
In addition, we've got point people figuring out how best we can plug into some pretty solid environmental and immigrant justice campaigns that are already moving. With any luck (and some good organizing, of course), the Moishe/Kavod House will be starting to make a splash in Boston progressive politics pretty damn soon.
All of which is just to say, we're gonna rock tonight...till the guitar bite.
A crazy start to a new year. As usual, the crowds pour in for Shabbat dinners. Sometimes I think we should start a little restaurant with all the in-kitchen experience we are getting. We could call it, well I don’t know what we could call it. I guess we could have a restaurant naming event. It’s been about four months of Moishe and all is going quite well. It might be time to diversify, maybe attract some different kinds of people or do different events. I think we should internationalize…which is why I am here starting the first Caribbean Moishe House (it’s a pirate Moishe house, unauthorized, so don’t tell the forest foundation).
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Usually NYE is one of the more disappointing holidays. You spend a lot of money getting into a club or a show. You get so wasted you don't really remember it. Oh yeah, and if you are not with a special someone you are searching desperately for that midnight smootch.
Ah but this year was different. This year I had a plan. Maia and I threw a great party
at our house (no wandering bar to bar, no spending money... thanks Moishe). The theme was black white and diamonds and as you can see I went all out. In addition creating a fun atmosphere to ring in the new year for our friends and Moishe-community, we raised over $500 for a local non-profit. Oh and as for that midnight smootch... it worked out. Happy 2007!!!
I attended sessions featuring JDUB and PresenTense and Guilt & Pleasure, some of the more innovative Jewish projects in North America right now. I sang songs (Moishe House Retreat Kabbalat Shabbat style) with Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Hiloni, Reform, Unaffiliated, Daati, Secular, Conservative, Renewal, Transdenominational, Post-Denominational, Culinary, and Just Jews. I met interesting people like Rabbi Yonah from Jewlicious who directs the Hillel at Long Beach and was homies with Shlomo Carlebach. He told me what guitar to buy if I want to learn some Jew-tunes.
After staff conference I traveled to the Great State of Florida. I will only refer to this fine wasteland sarcastically as GSF from now forward. My family happens to live in GSF. I still ask them, every time I go, why they are still there. See, we moved there when I was in 10th grade, back in good 'ol 1994 - you know...pre-Myspace. I finished high school as a band nerd at a public school where we didn't have snow days, only hurricane days and half days due to bomb scares (suburban kids are bored). And, while I left right after college (the only thing good about GSF is the University of Florida Gators, the only team in the 5767 years of history to hold both the national championship in basketball and american football), my parents have stayed and continue to sweat every day of the year. I get pneumonia everytime I visit because of the dichotomy of humid heat to air conditioning. Anyway, I went there this time with my sweetheart, Ariel and she met the fam (not the fockers) for the first time.
It went swell. It was a busy (emotionally) time because as I was introducing Ariel to my parents, they were introducing me to their new sweeties, my mom to her Syrian-Jew-Jdate-friend, Sid, and my dad to his Gentile-Cat Breeding-commitment ring-business partner and lover, Wayne. Yes, Wayne is gender male. Yes, my dad is gay.
I saw my grandparents and we went to see the Pursuit of Happyness (sic). Will Smith has a moment of yum yum without any boom boom in the film, and it is so good that you almost feel it with him. But not quite.
10 days in Israel culminated my month long tour of yum. I staffed a bus of 18-26 year old Israel virgins with Israel Outdoors for birthright israel. Everytime I do that I remember why I say I hate staffing birthright trips. I mean, free trip to Israel is pretty hard to beat, but I'll take my chances next time (well, actually, I am most likely staffing a trip in June that guarantees to be better than this past trip). I got sick (as did most of the participants) and came home to Seattle last week ill, tired, disoriented (a month just went by? for real?), and not wanting to work. I went to work for a day, called in sick a day, took an already scheduled vacation day, and went away for the weekend...to staff a Reconstructionist youth movement retreat. I liked it.
It snowed again last night and that brings us to now. Thanks for listening. If it wasn't for this blog I would have been holding all this inside and as a result, might have gone boom boom without any yum yum. Baruch HaShem for Moishe House. I look forward to feeling like I actually live here again.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
The year ended sweetly at Moishe House Boston. Radical Latkes exceeded all expectations. We didn't just push the envelope: we bit the envelope and tore it open with our teeth. And oh, they were delicious: the sweet, full-bodied, flavor of golden beets, purple beets, sweet potatoes, jewel yams, and vidalia onions—a parsnip might have snuck in as well.
Since our kick-off meeting, we've been handing over the reigns of our house, so that other brilliant souls could step up with their own visions of spiritual journeys, social justice, and pan-fried deliciousness. Most sweetly, the leadership in the kitchen was emblematic of this new order in Moishe House Boston.
Lee stepped up as head chef and Radical Latke Mastermind, his vision bringing together an unprecedented rainbow of roots with deft and agility. The smell of Jessica's homemade applesauce had mouths watering all the way to Fenway. Rachel surprised everyone by bringing her own radical latkes, a proud marriage of apple and Idaho. Then, when all was shredded and fried and sauced and eaten, and the kitchen was looking particularly disheveled and breathless, I was about to roll up my sleeves and pick up a sponge, when three new friends swooped into the kitchen. For a long time, nothing could be discerned but a blur of dishes, sponges, hand-towels, and soap, as they engaged each other in an animated debate of production lines, efficiency, and industrial output. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone, leaving the kitchen sparkling.
Everyone stepped up: Alyson, Margie, Ben, and I just provided the roots and the space. I hope we take this approach beyond the kitchen in the year to come. We have some awesome people in our community here, and I hope that our house can become a launching pad for the healing they want to bring to the world.
-Ari Johnson (Boston)
Friday, January 5, 2007
Bathing in warm water has been a godsend, so long as our 100 year old house continues to pump out the heat. The whole bathing thing has been really my only area of relief during the last several days. Food, my usual first comfort relief has no business being in this posting because I have eaten only a couple bowls of rice and some bananas in the last week. Sports, although i love to watch and talk and play them have provided no sense of satisfaction lately. My roomates, though they are both great, can only shuttle me to and from the hospital and ask me every hour or so how am feeling, which I simply respond with an eye roll and a deep breath. So the constants of food, sports, and friends have done nothing to help me through this shitty situation.
So for most people baths are a welcome sense of relief after a long day of work or activity. However, for this sick kid, bathing has become a science. Five minutes before I get in, I sit on the toilet with my head in my hands and sulk, rub my stomach, contemplate inserting another suppository, drink a full glass glass of water, undress and begin running my hands under the warm water. At this point, the tub is about a quarter full and I step in and it feels fucking great. I stand in the tub while shower water splashes my face and I feel at ease for the first time since I have gotten out of the shower/bath last.
Second step is for me to warm up a bit in the shower stream, and then take the euphoric step of sitting down in the shower and letting the water splash onto my face and stomach and chest, while my legs are fully extended and the tub continues to fill up. (Although this has been a shitty feeling/hangover cure of mine since high school, just recently I have learned there are a number of us shower-bathers out there, though like all nomenclatures, we are few and far between, but are fully committed to our practices, and have been known to espouse of them in public.) So at this point, the water has been running for roughly 12 minutes, I am feeling sooooo much better, and the tub is quickly filling up. I like to stay on the hydration train and try to be sure I have taken in at least half a cup of water by this point. After a full 16 minutes the tub is full and it is time to turn the water off, for the first time.
Relaxation station is in full effect as I close my eyes, crack the window in the bathroom and concentrate on thinking about getting healthy. 10 minutes go by and I suddenly wake up realizing I had fallen asleep in the tub, which for a 6 month baby is bad news, but for me it is just a little startling. Very aware the water temperature has dropped anywhere between 5 and 15 degrees, it is time to drain the tub halfway, while a new flow of very warm, though not hot water, begins to fill my palace again. As I learned early on, there are a few variables that can effect how enjoyable the second half of the bath goes. First, there is the matter of timing. If too much water is released from the tub while the shower is filling it back up, there will not be enough warm water to repeat the empty and fill method a third time. Secondly, temperature is key. If the bath water gets too warm too quick it will make the bathroom super moist and tropical, thus dehydrating me further and continuing this cycle. Since we have no fan in our bathroom, this condensation must be realesed somehow, which means it is time to open the outside window a little further. Not only does this not work very effectively, gettting out of an hour long bath and drying off and stepping naked into a bathroom with endless cold air blowing into it is terrible. Third is attitude. Am I really trying to kick it in the shower for another 20 minutes while it seems to me everyone else in Berkeley is doing something productive, even though we know that is far from the case ever here in Berkeley. And as has been the case time and again this week, the answer has always been, hell yeah I am staying in, and I am even looking forward to getting back in in a couple of hours.
Couple of hours? Is this grown man of 24 years really that down on his luck that he needs to sulk away his pain and discomfort through a series of over abundant water usage? Yes, this is precisely the case. Although I have only had three shower/baths today, and it is 1 pm, what about the sleepless nights you might ask yourself. Unfortunately for some people, when they get sick, rather than sleep like they are supposed to, they stay awake and count the minutes and listen to AM radio. I have counted lots of minutes this week. With sleepless nights so prevalent and the relief of the shower just a few steps away, why deny myself the pleasure when nothing else is going good for me right now? Five days of sickness, 4-8 showers a day, 30 minutes of water running each time doesn't make me feel good about our next month's water bill. I'm pretty sure there is no drought in California right now, but if there is a blip on the radar in Berkeley, I know whose house the authorities are going to come knocking on first.
So I am now in my 5th day of sickness and fortunately have not puked in almost 48 hours, however with no appetite and no real desire to begin eating anytime soon, the road to recovery is still a couple of days away....
Here's to a Happy New Year for all the happy and healthy folks out there, and I too will be back on that team soon, so long as the water bureau does not cut me off.
Sorry to bring down anyone's spirit who took the time to read all the way through this, but why lie when there is so much excitement to share sometimes. I wish everyone in the Moishe Community and abroad good health and even better luck in 2007!
be the change you want to see in your community and spread the message of peace,
Thursday, January 4, 2007
I wish it was Sunday....whoa whoa...
LEO sez.... Happy New Year everybody. This past New Year celebration was two-fold. Not only did we usher in 2007, but
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
So why do I feel like shit so much of the time.
It's not that I feel bad all the time, but more than I would expect considering the life I just described. I've been thinking about this a lot in the last month or so and I think I've found an answer. Of course not THE answer, who knows what that is but at least something to work on. I have done a really good job at growing a life around me that is great. But when was the last time that I put the same amount of energy that I put into my friends/family, job, house, into myself. I think it's been a while. It's been a while since I've taken action to learn something new. It's been ages since I practiced my Ukulele. I used to do scukpture and ceramics but now that seems to be a thing of the past. I'm 12 pages into writing the next great American Novel, but I haven't writen in months. The answer is to take in it inward.
TV sucks me away from anything productive and fulfilling. I'm setting stern rules for myself on tv usage. TV only when the sun is down. If the sun is up, there are better things to be doing.
Kinda. It's just too easy to come home a take a hit to relax. This single act is not a bad thing at all but when it starts happening everyday... productivity goes way down. At the retreat I had a great talk with Margie about Shabbat. I was trying to understand why she observed Shabbat o the extent that she did. Although i had no interest in following her in the way she does Shabbat her points on keeping a day seperate and sacred really hit home. Where am I going with this? POT ONLY ON THE SHABBAS. Sacreligious? Maybe... Bradilicious? Definitely! I've been doing it for a few weeks and it's great! Gives me a solid reason to say no when an offer is made during the week (It's true I can be weak to peer presure) and it makes it a special, even spiritual experience on my typically lazy Saturday.
Just because I'm not in school doesn't give me the excuse to stop learning. Whenever anyone says, "what's up?" I want to be able to say, "I just learned about..." or "I'm checking out this new poet who..." or "Holla!" The latter I say quite often but the others are rare. I'm gonna start small just to make sure I actually do it. Monday-Wednesday I have Brady School for one hour a day. I can learn about anything. the point is just that I am putting time aside to learn and doing it. It'll be like a learning free write. In a free write you can write about anything. The only rule is that your pencil can't leave the page. Same thing only my brain can't leave the facts.
GET BETTER AT STUFF
I don't have the timing worked out yet but I need some hours devoted to getting better at stuff. Wether it's ukulele, writing, tennis, whatever... it don't matter. The point is to feel better as a human being so anything will do the trick.
I get winded if I sprint for one city block... gross.
TALK ABOUT IT
Ah ha! you are all part of this very important step! It's easy to let yourself off the hook. To forget the promises you made to yourself. But it's a whole different thing when you're letting other people down too. I'm telling you all what my plans are so that I can have the fear of being called on my shit to help me live these steps out. When you talk to me I don't want you to ask me about this and have to admit that i totally failed at it and am watching tv all the time and doing nothing. This will help keep me on track.
Ha! And I was going to write about my trip to Cambodia. Well I guess this is what needed to come out. You all are great and I hope we get to have another retreat soon.
Fun is Fun
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
This week I learned that my masters enjoy it when I hump them. So maybe, other humans will like it too. This moment of clarity was preceded by Master Nate’s Chanukah gift to Master Lee: a T-shirt for the 4th Annual Humpin’ Hannah’s Softball Championships. I took this as a sign from Hashem. My new year’s resolution is to get as many hannah humping human pictures as I can.
My masters took me with them to the snowy mountains this weekend to celebrate my New Year’s resolution. I played with my uncles Benny and Kramer who are bigger, much hairier and younger than I am. Kramer humped Benny. I humped Master Lee and his girlfriend, my arch nemesis, Erin. Benny and Kramer eat different food than me. It smelled yummy so I tasted some when no one was looking. I went sledding and running in the snow. I made a lot of doodies in the snow and painted the snow yellow. I had fun this weekend but I am excited to go home, where I am the center of attention and can sleep in everyone’s beds.
I rove you rog,
Current mood: horny and frustrated
I really enjoyed our erev xmas brunch; we had a busy kitchen and many satisfied tummies. We had an excellent french toaster preparer and many lively conversations. It was a nice chance to relax after all the food was prepared and enjoy the weekend.
We are looking forward to this next year and some winter wonderment and new programming ideas.
All jokes aside, we recently met with a woman from Nextbook (http://www.nextbook.org/), a Jewish cultural and literary organization. We, the Moishehousenikim (Moishehouseoon in Arabic), have struggled with where and when to add content to our events. Is a Dvar Torah too much for a Shabbat dinner? Is circumcision for men and women going too far? Again, the point is, we struggle. When we met with the woman from Nextbook we decided to partner up on a series of salons that we (MHDC) would host. I'm excited for the content of the salons but also for what they could potentially produce. Will we start something here at MHDC that goes well beyond what we could have ever envisioned? I hope so.
C. Musa Silver
So imagine my joy when, on Christmas Eve, after the obligatory Chinese feast, the boys of Moishe House DC and their distinguished guests marched down to Dupont Circle to join 1,496 other calendrical rebels in a violent and revolutionary celebration of difference, or, as others might call it, a sort-of cool dance party in a big club. And imagine my joy, too, when I noticed that all of my fellow revelers were, like me, genetically disinclined to obey beats and rythms, everyone coasting awkwardly about with lowered but happy heads like at middle school dances where the girls hop up and down and the boys drink punch. Yes! Such joy! A thousand and a half Jews waging war against Christmas with overpriced well drinks and rap music and bad judgement! The People of the Book marking their difference from the world, on the day during which they are most different, by acting just like everyone else. Yes! Joy! Drinks! Dance!
I can't wait untiil next year.
Adam in DC
To celebrate the end of the year and a successful start to Moishe East Bay Dennis and I celebrated in San Francisco by riding a trolley to and fro and enjoying a spectacular display of fireworks. Dennis liked the cranberry juice, but he did not enjoy the spicy mustard he had packed away. Anyway, things were in upheaval all night and well into the new year, what a way to celebrate.
I am glad the consumerism of Christmas has passed. I am tried of being told how bad my life is and how much I need something for $49.99 that will change it and make things better. It makes me fearful that people can be trapped into this. How quickly smart rationale people can be changed into a meaningless mass of consumers. I continued my tradition, no gifts, not for you, not for anyone (sorry mom, but it's the principle).
Here's to a new year and new resolutions. I will be folding on a couple of my resolutions at the January 7th beer and chili festival, but hey, resolutions are made to be broken (that could really catch on, maybe a t-shirt...)
Monday, January 1, 2007
However, I would like to share a special story of my experiences down south that reminded me that I am part of something just a smidge bigger than myself and my immediate circle of confidants, archfriends, and associates.
So, here's the scene. I'm having a very late breakfast out with my cousin. I'm eating something fishy. Grouper, perhaps. And I'm sporting my Moishe House stylez, wearing a shirt so very kindly shared with me by the SF Moishe House of their official softball team, the Matzah Ballstars. Also, it is worth noting that the shirt says "Moishe House" on the back, with the snazzy Moishe Mem logo as well.
Anyways, so these two lovely Jewess approach the table, and they ponder aloud, "hey, what are the Matzah Ballstars?"
I explained that the shirt was the official softball rags of some friends of mine in San Francisco, to which the one on the left so thoughtfully informs me: "oh, because the back of your shirt says 'Moise House,' and there's a Moishe House in the city in which we live - Washington [DC]." !!!!!
It turns out the two girls, both Washington-metro-area 20-somethings, read about us in the Washington Jewish Weekly and the younger of the two definitely expressed interest in coming to events and is now on our mailing list. To be fair, their DAD read the article and urged them to attend events, and they had no intention of doing so until they met me in person, I believe, but, really, how priceless is that all??
To make a shong story lort, I then returned to DC, accidentally ate at a vegan restaurant run by African Hebrew Israelites, and promptly went to bed, only to find myself awakened at 11 am by a Moishe House DC community Sunday brunch, with homemade pancakes and an omelet so sweet it'll make you get down on your knees and beg for buttermilk.
References to movies in which my home-state's governor stars aside, what this brought home was that I am part of a community now. and I have all of you to thank.
but especially the grouper. and haShem.
I Cannot Answer You Tonight in Small Portions
I cannot answer you tonight in small portions.
Torn apart by stormy love's gate, I float
like a phantom facedown in a well where
the cold dark water reflects vague half-built
and trades all our affection, touching, sleeping,
together for tribunal distance standing like
a drowned train just beyond a pile of Eskimo