Friday, May 31, 2013

Sometimes Keeping Kosher Does Much More Than Divide A Kitchen

Over the years my wife and I have observed the laws of Kashrut to varying degrees. It began about three years ago when we began eliminating pork and non kosher fish from our diet. I had eliminated shellfish long before that time due to my wife’s severe allergy but we took it a step further by removing eel, calamari, and others from our options.

Next was the big step of not mixing meat and dairy. This was particularly hard as we both grew up and thoroughly enjoyed cheeseburgers and cheese steaks. While it was a struggle, we managed to do it. However, I think we are still on some Philadelphia citizens watch list.

After our short time in Israel, our observance increased to the point at which we created a kosher kitchen in our new apartment and stocked it with strictly kosher food. As many of you know, this is not an easy endeavor as this required us to segregate our pantry, fridge, stove, cabinets, and sink and maintain a process of keeping everything kosher and having a set of steps to follow for the times when we messed up (grabbing the wrong utensil for example).

This is where we have been for the past year or so.

Lately we have been asking ourselves if this extra step has really added anything to our observance. Is it bringing us closer to G-d or is it hindering us from truly appreciating what G-d has given us? Of course, this is really part of a much broader question regarding our observance but it applies to all aspects including the laws of Kashrut.

In the end, we have decided to go back to basics as we have found ourselves getting too caught up in the details of what we are doing rather than the appreciating of what we have and what G-d has given us. While a minor aspect of the decision it is still an important one is the fact that, given our financial position, it has been detrimental to our life and well being to spend the extra money on strictly kosher products (ones that are labeled with a hechsher).

We had gotten away from appreciating life and all that we have been given. We had overcomplicated our lives and muddled the meaning of what it is to live and what it means to have G-d in our lives. It is time to keep it simple.

If I have pissed you off or offended you in some way with this post please know that you are not the first and you won’t be the last… you are the newest member of a club that has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years. However, keep in mind that all members joined the club of their own volition as they refused to be open to an opinion that differed from their own. I always welcome a respectful discussion no matter how wrong you may be.

With that said… if you agree, leave a comment; if you disagree, leave a comment; if you’re struggling with the same issue, welcome to the club, now leave a comment.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Overcoming Able Bodied Bias

As some of you may know I am currently serving as the Sergeant-at-Arms for The Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd – Narberth. This post is the first in a series regarding the diverse presentations made at my local Rotary club. Occasionally, I will also write posts about the club that I happen to be visiting as well as any events or training that I attend.

This week we welcomed Michael Kelly who serves as volunteer coordinator at the Inglis House in Philadelphia. Our club has a long standing relationship with Inglis and we are proud of the partnership which has continuously strengthened over the years. With that said, we greatly appreciated Michael taking the time to reintroduce us to the services that Inglis provides to those in need and the inspiration that their programs provide to both participants and the community in general.

Founded in 1877, Inglis House is a specialty nursing care facility providing long-term, residential care for 297 adults with physical disabilities, including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury and stroke, among others.  Residents receive rehabilitative medical and nursing care; physical, occupational and speech therapies; and a selection of more than 20 social enrichment and therapeutic recreation programs every day.

Inglis Community Based Services supports more than 800 people living independently in the community through resources including: accessible housing, care management (helping people navigate the health care system), a day program, an MS Evening program and community employment. Inglis is also the largest provider of affordable accessible housing in the Greater Philadelphia region with 208 housing units, and plans for 50 more units by 2015.

All Inglis services and programs are designed to enable people with physical disabilities to enjoy life with the greatest amount of independence and mobility.

It is important to note that Inglis provides services for people from all walks of life and with a wide variety and degree of disabilities all the while emphasizing and encouraging the amazing talents and abilities locked inside uncooperative bodies that are sometimes overlooked by the community.

I encourage you to consider donating your time, either on your own or through an organization such as Rotary, by assisting these amazing individuals in expressing the intelligence and passion that lies just beneath the surface. It will certainly change your perspective and make you appreciate the simple tasks that many of us take for granted. It might also lead you to question your own misconceptions and sever the connection between intelligence and physical ability. To set up an interview with Mike please feel free to call him directly at 215-581-0718. 

For those of you in the local Philadelphia area I welcome you to join us for lunch every Wednesday at 12:15 PM at Aldar Bistro located at 281 Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwyd. If you live outside the area or if the meeting time doesn’t work in your schedule I encourage you to find a local Rotary club and learn a little more about who we are and what we do.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cleaning Always Makes Me Feel Dirty!

Yesterday my wife and I finally set aside the time to give our apartment a much overdue deep cleaning. I wouldn’t say that our apartment was filthy but after seeing the dirt picked up I can say it was anywhere close to clean either. While we still have a few things that need to be addressed, namely the office, dining room table, and a few items that have to be put through the laundry, there was significant progress made and we both agreed that it just felt cleaner. The floors even passed the white sock test.

Every time we have one of these OCD days, I am reminded of the irony that cleaning always makes me feel incredibly dirty and a shower is mandatory after such a Clorox marathon. Inevitability this leads us to agree that we can’t go so long in-between cleanings and that a (fanciful) schedule is needed. We will see if hope becomes reality this time.

However, I think the most important development from yesterday for me is the realization that, once again, we have too much stuff. I feel as we are becoming the embodiment of a George Carlin rant… soon our stuff will be spread all over the world.

I think it is time to downsize. We have done it before and we can do it again. It’s a simple process overcomplicated by the physical act and mental roadblocks. Hopefully, we can get to the point of removing that which is bogging us down… the vast majority of this issue is my fault and something that I have to get done. Basically I am a crap addict with ten pounds squeezed into an apartment which holds five.

I know you will be waiting with bated breath for the next thrilling post on this exciting topic. Don’t worry I will fill you in on the exhilarating results. Also, as a side note, if you try and pawn your stuff off on me when I don’t have a real need for it I might have to beat you with one of the bags of trash that will certainly result from my efforts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hike Up Your Shorts, Grab the Booze, and Head to the Pool!

The problem with working at the same building in which I live is that social occasions can sometimes be a little awkward. This was the case at the annual pool party at my apartment building yesterday as much of my time was spent convincing people whom I have become friends with since moving in to allow me to assist them and clean up after them. After numerous assurances, I was able to get to work and earn the money I was getting paid.

The funny thing is that the occasion wouldn’t have been much different if I weren’t working… I am always willing to help at a party I attend and I am happy to get things for people during those events. It’s just good manners and being a decent human being. So, essentially, the only difference was that I was paid to attend a party rather than having to pay to attend.

It is during these events that I am also reminded of the skewed view that some former colleagues and others whom I have met during my time living and working at the building have of some of the residents and the community as a whole. It is true that many residents have their quirks and some like things a certain way but they are good people and if you treat them with respect they will treat you in kind.

While I have experience in client and customer facing positions, this position has been my first experience working in hospitality. But the same rules apply: be attentive, be respectful, be presentable, and abide by the cliché of treating others as you wish to be treated. This is not a complicated proposition - it all comes down to common sense.

 Overall, the weather was good, the pool was empty, the alcohol was flowing, and I got paid which translates to a good time had by all!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Put Down Your Hot Dog For A Second!

Today is Memorial Day, a day that we remember the men and women who lost their lives to ensure our safety as well as our way of life. This is something that we should all be conscious of on a daily basis but sadly we forget. This is a day for us to refocus and appreciate what we have.

Just as I remember the fallen on Veterans Day, for me, Memorial Day is also a day to remember those who could have easily been one of the memorialized. Those who were saved by being a day late or a day early, those who were born a year prior or a year after, and especially those who were sitting a foot to the left or a foot to the right. These people could have easily been etched on the monuments of the fallen. These people need to be remembered and honored not just for their own service but as the keepers of memory… the brothers and sisters in arms who bear the burden of survival and wrestle with the pain of memory. This is also the reason why we should remember the brave lives that were lost somewhere else besides the battlefield.

I consider myself fortunate that there have only been a few in the many generations of my family, from the Revolutionary War to the present, which have lost their lives fighting for this country. However, there have been countless generations who have struggled with their own memories and many who have had to carry the guilt of life.

For this reason, I take this time to not only remember the sacrifices of the fallen but also offer my undying gratitude to all those who have served and could have easily been a second too late or early. Thank you!  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I'm Back

It has been a long time since I last blogged both personally and professionally. There have been a lot of changes that have occurred during that time.

Home: Metuchen to Jerusalem to Bryn Mawr to Bala Cynwyd to ?

Work: Public Relations to Insurance to Finance to Hospitality to Public Relations?

Faith: Semi Observant to Bordering Orthodox to Quasi Observant to ?

Community Involvement: Synagogue to Jewish Agency and Nefesh B'Nefesh to Rotary and Freemasonry to ?

Obviously, there are a lot of question marks pertaining to the future...

Where are we going to live?

What industry will I be working in (hopefully I will be able to return to PR)?

What will our level of observance be?

I will be continuing my involvement with Rotary and Masons but what other community projects and organizations will I be involved with?

Will I stop ending my sentences with prepositions?

I really don't know what will develop or how quickly things will happen but, either way, I remain optimistic about what could happen, what the future holds, where life will take us, where G-d will lead us, and what daily simple pleasures I look forward to enjoying.

So this is how I am starting my blog, my new blog. No guidelines or promises. No list of topics I plan to cover. This blog will serve as a simple recording of occasional thoughts and experiences which should be consumed in moderation… frustration hangovers are to be expected.