Monthly Archives: July 2015

Race in America: The Courage of Rabbi Teitelbaum

Race in America: The Courage of Rabbi Teitelbaum.

Race in America: The Courage of Rabbi Teitelbaum

The Ava DuVernay film, Selma, is such an excellent film with such fine acting that I felt transported back to the 1960’s while I watched it. The film centers around the Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights in 1965. Although this was an African American movement, many Jewish people were involved in the civil rights struggle. Not only were the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh, but most of us had grandparents and parents who had fled bigotry and oppression. We wanted to help end the same type of hateful acts in America, the Free.

I remember admiring the people who went to the South to march, putting their very lives at risk. My parents would never have let me go and I doubt that I had the courage to do it anyway. But, I do know someone who did have the courage to stand behind Dr. King and other leaders in the March: Rabbi David Teitelbaum. He is the brother and uncle of friends of mine.

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Recently President Obama spoke about him in his remarks at the Adas Israel synagogue, on May 22:

“…I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago. A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail.

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And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope. But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps”– yarmulkes — as they marched. th-4

And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”

As we remember the struggles of years past, I hope we can remember the benefits of standing strong together for what is right and just. As we acknowledge the ills of today, I hope we also can stand together, a rainbow of colors and creeds, working to create a better America for all. For me, these aren’t just words—they are my intention.

 

P.S.

Just as I finished writing this, I got this news update from the New York Times:

“Seven years ago, in the gauzy afterglow of a stirring election night in Chicago, commentators dared ask whether the United States had finally begun to heal its divisions over race and atone for the original sin of slavery by electing its first black president. It has not. Not even close.

A new New York Times/CBS News poll reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.”

This survey does not change my intention—it only makes it stronger. The bandaids are off so we can see the poison underneath. Let’s dig deep and make some real change.

 

Unconscious Racism: Let’s Move Forward

When Barack Obama was elected President I thought it was a signal that racism was dead. I thought so much had been accomplished but that’s because my rose colored glasses were firmly in place. It’s taken cell phones with cameras to uncover the truth about how Blacks are treated by police in this country. But it’s not only police brutality at play here. After several months, I’m beginning to understand that our societal core is racist.

Let me see if I can start to explain white privilege.  It’s so integral in American society that we don’t even perceive it. It is not overt—I don’t think it is even conscious. Let’s begin with the color of our skin.

 

Natural Nude?

Natural Nude?

Last night I was on a website that sells clothing. I was looking at underwear. Because I’m writing about the years I taught at Meany and about race in our country, I’ve become more cognizant of what is “natural” in America. And here on the website was a fine example: I had only one choice of color for my sports bra: “natural nude”. It is a beige or light tan color. In other words, if your skin is not of that color, you are unnatural? In one sweep of the language, all people of color are excluded from the societal norm when buying this product.

This is only one way people of color are marginalized in our society, and you may say that it’s not that important. But the constant bombardment of such messages takes a toll. I can relate somewhat during the Christmas season. As a Jew, I am not part of the celebration. When the “National Christmas Tree” is lighted, I feel that even though my grandparents all immigrated to the United States over 100 years ago, perhaps I am not a real American.

 

The 88th Annual National Tree Lighting, sponsored by UL, stays safe and bright with over 750 lights and 500 ornaments on this year's tree.  Photo courtesy of Charlie Samuels/UL.

The 88th Annual National Tree Lighting, sponsored by UL, stays safe and bright with over 750 lights and 500 ornaments on this year’s tree.

Jennifer Holladay, in her book, White Anti-Racism Activism, says: “White skin privilege is not something that white people necessarily do, create or enjoy on purpose….White people receive all kinds of perks as a function of their skin privilege.”

She then gives some examples.

“• When I cut my finger and go to my school or office’s first aid kit, the flesh-colored band-aid generally matches my skin tone.

  • When I stay in a hotel, the complimentary shampoo generally works with the texture of my hair.
  • When I run to the store to buy pantyhose at the last minute, the ‘nude’ color generally appears nude on my legs.
  • When I buy hair care products in a grocery store or drug store, my shampoos and conditioners are in the aisle and section labeled ‘hair care’ and not in a separate section for ‘ethnic products.’
  • I can purchase travel size bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores.”

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Many years ago, I’d figured out that the pinkish beige color, FLESH, in the crayon box, was racially exclusive. Same for FLESH-COLORED bandages that were beige. I’d never thought about hair products before, although I’ve noticed the special section for people of color. (I’m always so focused on finding a product that will give me volume that I don’t have time to think of anything else in the hair aisle.)

Flesh-colored?

Flesh-colored?

 

Once you become aware of this inaccurate color description, you begin to see it everywhere. In an article, “White Privlege: Flesh Colored” in The Society Pages, Lisa Wade gives more examples. One of the most ironic and outrageous is the description of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ball gown:

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Flesh-colored? It didn’t match the flesh of the beautiful  first lady!

Barack Obama, Manmohan Singh, Michelle Obama, Gursharan Kaur

As well meaning whites continue to awaken from our long sleep of oblivion, there are attempts to right this basic wrong. Here is an example:

 

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When I taught middle school in the Eighties, I tried to raise the consciousness of my students. One exercise I learned in a Graduate School multi-cultures class was this: You are sitting on a park bench and an American walks past you. Describe the American. The descriptions written offered a fascinating look into the American psyche. Most of the “Americans” were white and male, sort of like all our Presidents until Barack Obama came along.

 

 

Normal skin? Is that what an American has?

Normal skin? Is that what an American has?

 

 

The Big Fat Summer of Love: Dr. Traci Mann

This interview really resonated with me, a yoyo dieter from childhood. Growing up in an extremely critical and very loving family, I strove to live up to my parents’ and family’s expectations. I remember being about 12 and eating a piece of cheese, and my brother saying, “Cheese is very fattening.” He loved to tease me as all big brothers do, and I thought he was just giving me a bad time. But he showed me some proof. There began my illicit affair with cheese. To this day, guilt plagues me when I eat it.
Thanks for presenting the information in your interview with Dr. Mann. I try to tell people we are born being a mesomorph, ectomorph or endomorph, but now I have some ammunition that may make more of an impact. Dr. Mann said in your interview: “For years I have been studying the science of weight loss and obesity, and the evidence shows that weight is primarily genetically determined and the extent to which people can alter it is limited. Trying to live at a weight way below one’s genetic range is a recipe for misery and failure as it basically means living as if you are biologically starving. I think it is immoral to expect people to live this way for the sole purpose of achieving a weight that happens to be what our society considers attractive at this point in time.”

Fattitude

FattitudeSummerofBigFatLoveV3-1After years of dieting, newbies to the world of Body Acceptance, find it very hard to wrap around the much discussed concept that, “Diets Don’t Work.” Thanks to Dr. Traci Mann of The Health and Eating Lab, however, we have hard evidence to prove such rhetoric. Dr. Mann, a widely cited expert in her field, has done copious amount of research on dieting, eating, fatness and self control and has proven, time and again, that, indeed, diets don’t work.

Dr. Mann’s book, “Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again,” explains her findings in depth and offers a breath of fresh air to anyone who has been stuck on the hamster wheel of Body Hate for any length of time.

cover@2xWhile the Body Acceptance Movement has a vast selection of wonderfully loud warriors who boisterously encourage…

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New Year Resolution Assessment

I thought that since half a year has gone by as well as my half birthday, I should assess how I’ve done on my resolutions from January. Here they are:

  1. Be happy with myself at my age.
  2. Stretch after my walk.
  3. Eat healthy.
  4. Think the thought that makes me feel good not the negative or fearful one.
  5. Don’t be the Grandiose Co-Dependent.

These are not what I remember. They are well and good, but in my mind I’d written:

  1. Write a blog twice a month.
  2. Work on the book.
  3. Do ten minutes or more of Rosetta Stone Spanish every day.
  4. Eat healthy.
  5. Stretch after my walk.
  6. Accept myself at my age.
  7. Take computer lessons.

It’s amazing what is and what we think is. Here I was supposed to be happy with myself and I was only trying to be accepting of the wrinkles, flab, and aches. Then I was feeling guilty if I didn’t write a blog every other week. As for the Rosetta Stone, a whole week could go by and I couldn’t seem to find even one ten minute segment to practicar Spanish. One good thing is that I’ve been working on my book lately with the help of an editor and mentor. It’s like a physical workout—I need a trainer or I’m not showing up. The same goes for writing my book—I now have Laura to keep me going.

To continue my analysis, I can count on the fingers of my right hand how many times I have stretched after my walk. That is sad because each time I do, my back, knee and foot feel so much better. Also when I go to my stretch class, I feel much better. Wait, can I count my stretch class? We even use the foam roller in there.

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And how about Pilates? Does that count? Those two classes keep me moving and I appreciate the instructors so much.

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I have tried harder to eat healthy but let’s face it, I will always drink Cokes and wine, and eat foods that do not enhance my body chemistry. Because, like the song says, “I’m Only Human”. And I love to eat. And I’m grateful I can. My sister-in-law’s brother gets his only nourishment through a food tube to his stomach. If that were me, and I didn’t love my children and grandchildren so much, I’d go the Kevorkian route.

I do think I made some headway on numbers 4 and 5 on the first list, without being conscious of it. I have caught myself a couple of times awfulizing or catastrophisizing and backed away from the dire thoughts. That is big for me. Last week I started going into a funk about how time is passing so quickly. My oldest grandchild is one year away from leaving home to go to college. How can it be? But, I caught myself in time and reminded myself to think thoughts that make me feel good. The melancholy dispersed much quicker. Finally, I am practicing to be less co-dependent. I’m not as sweet and compliant as I used to be. I still have trouble saying NO, but I have done it at least twice.

My plan is to combine the actual list with the one in my head for my goal setting for the second half of 2015. I’m primed for it anyway because I’ve already taken two computer lessons. Might as well continue.