I don’t actually know what S.O.S stands for but I know that it’s a distress call (or is it?)  I’m not in distress, I’m just stressed.  If you read my other blog, which you should.  In fact, take a moment and go read it now I’ll wait here.


Back?  Great.  So you’ve read that I’m giving a talk in front of a handful of Jews of Color about being a Black, Gay Jew-to-be.  I need some help from other Queers of Color, Jews who are Queer, Jews who are not Queer, and Jews of Color.  It’s a simple questionnaire I would e-mail to you for you to fill out and return.  If you want to help out, or know anyone who might want to, please send them my way.



Black, Gay, and Jewish Part 5

I’m rereading the book “Choosing a Jewish Life” by Anita Diamant.  I started reading it around May of this year and read through it quickly.  I had her other book, “Living a Jewish Life” and various other titles to get through so while I did, indeed, read it, I didn’t grasp very much of it.  It’s still a quick read the second time around by now when I read the Hebrew transliterations I know that I’m pronouncing the words more properly. 

One of the suggestions Anita makes in this book is that you start to make your life, your home, more Jewish by making little changes.  She suggests dietary laws, subscriptions to Jewish magazines or newspapers as well as the “normal” mitzvahs like attending temple, keeping Shabbat, and reading Torah.  Little by little I’ve been making changes to better Jewify my home and life.  My next endeavor? Magazine and Newspaper subscriptions.  I’m looking for resources that I can relate to.  Those of a liberal and inclusive perspective I more closely identify with because I’m a black Jew.  I’m still on the look out for a black Jewish publication so if any of you have suggestions, please let me know.

I’m also looking at those from an Orthodox perspective as well as a Conservative perspective so that I can learn.  I think it would be naive of me to just focus on reform and more liberal Jewish practices because if I ignore others, I’m not really “getting it” or appreciating it.  Google was very helpful in my search and my credit card is going to start to bleed soon if I subscribe to them all so I will not.  I won’t get through them all, any way.  Luckily, there are a few quarterly publications in addition to the weekly newspapers so I think I’ll figure something out.

Best thing I’ve found, though, is the openness for submissions and the writing contests!  I’ve been keeping three separate notebooks; Black, Gay, and Jewish that I write in daily so that I can better shape my memoir.  It’s great to see how the themes of belonging and sometimes feeling like an outsider in this skin of mine is mirrored in all three of my identities.  There are times now when I don’t feel “gay enough” because I don’t fit into the stereotypical mold of what a lesbian is or is not.  My childhood is filled with painful memories of peers or my parents telling me that I wasn’t black enough.  Now, as I enter Judaica stores or flip through pages of Jewish magazines I’m hard-pressed to find a face that looks like mine. 

On the other hand, I love a beautiful woman who I want to spend my entire life with.  When I see her I get happy and I feel lusty at the same time.  This fact, and my love, adoration, and attraction to women, in general, make me a lesbian.  I’m undeniably black.  I cannot change the kinky curly texture of my hair nor can I make my skin, that’s darker in the NYC sun, any lighter than it will be in December.  While I’m not formally a Jew, inside I’m starting to feel Jewish.  I actually said, “we” to Mirs the other day, instead of  “them” when talking about Jewish people.  We spent the night looking up Jewish names for our unborn children as well as for the Hebrew name I will take.  I’m leaning to Charna, which is a Yiddish name of Slavic origin that means “black.” 

These three identities are seemingly different but through the writing of my memoir and my pieces here and on VP, I’m beginning to realize that they’re not all that different because I’m making them three in the same.

Black, Gay, and Jewish Part 4

I’m writing  a series with the same name on the Velvet Park website.  Here’s a link to the most recent article I wrote for them.  http://www.velvetparkmedia.com/blogs/black-gay-and-jewish-part-two-finding-path  Because of the nature of the site, I usually try to keep my entries for them around 600 words.  Because this is my personal blog I can write and write and write. 

I’m using my experience of conversion to Judaism as one third of the novel that I’m writing.  The novel, Black, Gay, and Jewish, is about me, my life, and my struggles with these three varying identities that make up who I am and how I indentify.  Writing here and on Velvet Park allows me to sort of flush out smaller themes so that I can remember and so that I can write.  Obviously, my Velvet Park posts focus mostly on Judaism, because it’s what I’m focused on now.  Here, though, I can explore all three of the themes of my book.

Like that little Introduction to this post?  I did, too. 

On Tuesday afternoon I walked into a temple in Midtown East and boarded the elevator with a tall girl I’m guessing is about 25 or so.  We both walked the room we were told to the week before and met with the Rabbi who was conducting our Conversion  Course.  That’s right, readers, I’m enrolled in a conversion course!  I cannot tell you how excited I am but there’s a lot of, “buts”, involved in this course.  It’s not a conversion course in the sense that after the many weeks of meetings and study that I will automatically go into my mikvah and come out the other side a Jew.  She’s told us that afterwards if we’re still interested in continuing the conversion process that it’s a discussion we can have at a later date.  I’m also not 100% positive that this synagogue, which is huge, beautiful, and a little bit imposing, will be my synagogue.  In fact, in the next few weeks I have more temples to attend Shabbat at and more meetings with prospective rabbis interested in discussing the conversion process with me.  Still, this rabbi was amazing, friendly, engaging, and seems genuinely passionate just about Judaism but about converting prospective Jews by choice.

Those simple facts are attractive to me, the fact that I wasn’t the only person of color in the room was also very attractive to me.  To my immediate right was a Swedish au pair who’d lived and worked for a Jewish family for over 6 years.  Her family’s holidays became her holidays and she found herself identifying closely with Judaism.  Next to her was a middle-aged father of two.  His wife was Jewish and they’d lived a Jewish life for the entire span of their marriage and in his words, “it was time.”  Next to him was a Cuban Kabbalistic who realized that Kabbalah, didn’t work without the recognition of its important place in Judaism, as a whole.  He’s been studying Kabbalah for ten years and his Catholic wife supports him.  Next to him was a black man just back from a long length of time living in Israel.  When he came back to the US he struggled with missing Israel when he realized that he missed Judaism.  Next to him sat the girl I’d taken the elevator with.  Her fiance is studying to be a rabbi and she’s drawn to the religion and has decided to convert.  Next to her was an  Asian woman whose father is Jewish.  She rediscovered her roots and found her place of belonging when she got engaged to a Jewish man.  Then the rabbi, a strikingly beautiful, engaging, energetic, and passionate woman who captured my attention from the moment we said hello to when we said good bye 2 hours later.

The class is intense.  There’s an actual syllabus with 5 books that are required of us to read.  The Torah portions are also assigned readings and in addition to the bi-weekly group meetings we’re all required to meet with her individually to talk about things.  I left the class energized and excited.  For the first time, even though I’ve attended Shabbat services and read countless books, I felt like, This is It!  I’m really going to do this! 

The class was on Tuesday and on Friday night I made my way back uptown to attend Shabbat service at the synagogue.  I was thankful when I noticed that the service would be held in their lower, pavilion level, rather than in the imposing sanctuary.  The pews formed a circle around the rabbi and cantor so that everyone was a part of the service.  I was late by about 20 minutes because of some really annoying train re-working but when I walked in the ushers smiled at me, “Shabbat Shalom.”  I was given a prayer book and directed to open seats (it was packed!)  They were in the middle of singing when I sat down and the gentlemen next to me showed me the page number and place we were at in the song as he smiled at me.  He was older, alone, with grey hair under his kippah.   It’s going to sound really odd, perhaps, but the circle style of worship was genious.  For me, the circle reminds us that we’re all in it together, you’re connected to the people around you.  Circles have no beginning and no end, they’re inclusive (and a bit exclusive, no?)  After the first song ended, and I actually recognized the melody, I felt tears brimming in my eyes.   The words and prayers and songs were familiar and the sermon given by the rabbi were meaningful to me.   

After service we were invited for refreshments and a tour of the historic sanctuary.  I introduced myself to the rabbi and he was warm and welcoming.  The congregants were warm and genuine, I even had an interesting exchange with a Jewish grandma.

While pouring Kosher wine (thankfully not Manichevitz)

Older Lady to her friend, about me, “My what a beauty!”  to me “Shabbat Shalom! You’re beautiful”

Me:  “Thanks!”

After a few moments, “Are you here with someone?  Are you single?”  It was pretty cute. 

Friday morning I helped Mirs move to Ditmas Park. She’d been telling me about the amazing diversity of her new neighborhood for two weeks and I finally got to explore it with her.  We have friends who live there but we’d only seen their side of the street.  Mirs’ side is a little more interesting.  Her building is giant and filled with Russian speaking neighbors and the smells of curries and stews in the hallways.  When you walk out of her door and go a few blocks it turns from Russian to Pakistani.  The shop windows are in Arabic and the food is Halal.  There is an Indian influence with beautiful saris in the windows.   The men were dressed in traditional attire, beards and head coverings.   A few more blocks then it turns from Pakistani to Jewish.  There’s the Flatbush Yeshiva, many temples, I presume are orthodox, and since it was Friday afternoon, busy-looking women, children, and men.  We found many a Judaica store-my new favorite, Eichler’s, where I purchased my mezuzah, which is affixed to my door, as well as my Hebrew magnet letters. 

Before finding Eichler’s we walked into a smaller Judaica store in search for the perfect mezuzah.  The ladies who ran the shop were adorably sceptical when we walked in but smiled, wished them a good Shabbat, and asked where the mezuzahs were.  After I found my mezuzah we went into a bakery that was bustling and running low on challah.  We got a small loaf and I went to temple leaving Mirs home.

It’s been on my door for almost 48 hours and walking past it as I leave or enter my apartment has made me realize that it’s not only a mitzvah to put a mezuzah on my door but it’s reminded me that I need to make my home into one that  I find sanctuary in.  By placing a mezuzah on my door I’ve made my home, my space, a holier one and with that comes the responsiblity for me to make it more comfortable, more inviting, more uniquely my own as opposed to a place that I live in.

So much of my life is stressful right now and my home, my sanctuary and protection from the outside world, needs to feel like that.  I’m a list maker and right along with finding a Hamsa Hand to put in my entry way I’m realizing that my books on Judaism are multiplying quickly, I don’t have a place in my house comfortable or conducive to writing, my small kitchen has so much empty and unused space that I could better utilize for cooking.  And even though my living space is small, I want to have Shabbat dinner here and invite over friends to enjoy it with.

I’ve taken so many steps towards my Judaism and there are hundreds of steps that I still need to take.  What excites me the most ist hat I’m excited to take them, eager to take them, but also realizing that I need to take them slowly so that I appreciate them.

A Day of Fasting

Thanks to a new reader I realized that today is Tisha B’av-“The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, a day of mourning and fasting recalling the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.” from Living a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant.  Starting at sundown yesterday Jews are supposed to fast, mourn, and refrain from working and other activities, including the reading of the Torah.  The fast is supposed to be a 25 hour fast in which Jews do not eat, drink, and in some cases shower, bathe, or wear leather goods as a sign of respect and mourning. 

Hmmm.  How does this Jew-in-Training get off work at such short notice and ride her bike to work without eating or drinking.  I don’t.  Had I consulted the Jewish calendar hanging on my wall I would’ve taken notice and tried to work something out but I’m a slave to my blackberry which, unfortunately, runs on the Georgian calendar.  I wonder if there’s a app for a Jewish calendar.  Instead, I’ve decided to do a liquid only diet out of respect for the day.

Miriam sent me an interesting article from NPR today http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128636069 regarding the possible conversion law being debated for the validation of American Jews as “real” Jews in Israel in addition one of the rabbis from a temple I’m interested in spoke with me today about their upcoming conversion courses.  So you can see that my head is swirling with Jewishness today.  Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve only had liquids.  I’m always impressed by Muslims during Ramadan.  I remember in high school being baffled by the Pakistani girls in class who’d study or read during lunch period instead of eating.  I’d always ask them, quite ignorantly, ” But, aren’t you hungry?” because I didn’t, or couldn’t, understand their strong drive for their faith.  Looking at the observation of fasting now I’m in awe.  Could I do that?  I suppose you can always do whatever it is that you put your mind to but the importance of the thing is the why.  My head isn’t fully wrapped around the many injustices of the Jewish people but in terms of the injustices in the world as a whole-there are too many to count.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other people gave up food, drink, and luxuries for a period of 25 hours for the sake of remembering.  Realising that people go without every day in our country.  Realising the injustice done, and still being done to minority groups in our country and abroad.  Remembering slavery and the results of slavery in the US.  Realising of the inequalities for civil rights for LGBT peoples throughout the world.  If I could have today off I’m not sure how I would honor it.  Next year, we shall see but I’d like to think that I would use the day to do good for others.  If I am to fast for 25 hours perhaps instead I would volunteer at a soup kitchen, or give the money or food I would spend that day to someone in need.  They are thoughts, ideas, possibilities of hope for the future and others.

Jew-Bashing on the A Train

Yup, that’s right.  I got Jew-bashed on the train tonight.  Who’d a thunk that being a black Jew (in training) was such a big deal?  I’ve been reading the Tanakh and I’m in Exodus.  It’s getting good, although I’m pretty sure I know how it ends.  I board the train at 14th street with my nose in my Bible.  I squeeze passed a woman with her nose in her own book and find a little spot, hold on until the next stop where a passenger gets off and I squeeze myself into a seat.  I’m just to the part where God instructs Moses to have all of the houses in Israel paint the blood of a lamb on their door posts when the guy across the way starts,

“Excuse me, miss, are you Jewish?”

“Yes, well, I’m converting,”  I answer.

“You do know that Jews are black, don’t you?”

“Nowadays I think that Jews come in almost every color, but yes, the first Jews were black.”

He then starts to quote Bible scriptures that state that Jews are black. 

I hold the belief that all first humans were black.  Whether you believe in the creation story, which this new Jew does not, or you believe in evolution it is widely known that all humanity started on the continent that is now Africa.  People in Africa are various shades of black from the brown-skinned Arab nations up north to the darkest of the black nations in the west.  With migration of people overtime, their skin colors changed, the shapes of their eyes changed, the texture of their hair changed, their religions, beliefs, spiritualities, cultures changed.  These things I seemed to have forgotten when the man was talking to me.

“And in this verse, ” he was saying.

“Look, I appreciate your opinion but I’m just trying to read on my ride home,” I said.

“I’m just letting you know that you don’t need to convert to Judaism because it says in the bible verse something I can’t remember as I reenact this for my readers that Jesus was the messiah…”

“Again, I’m just trying to read and get home so I appreciate your opinion…”

“It’s not an opinion, it’s there in that book that you’re reading!  Jesus is the messiah!  He died for your sins!”

“Okay.  I’m annoyed now so, please,  just stop talking to me.”

I went on reading and didn’t look in his direction.  I sort of feared that he’d be getting off in my neighborhood but what would a Christian man be doing in a West Indian/Muslim/Hindi neighborhood?

Thing is, I suppose it wasn’t bashing as much as it was a difference in opinion.  The thing about these encounters on the train or any time when you’re baited into a debate that you’re relatively unprepared for is that you always think of the zingers or the “right” things to say later.  One of my favorite scenes in “You’ve Got Mail”, one of my favorite movies of all time, goes something like this: 

Kathleen Kelly to Joe Fox via vintage AOL Instant Messager, “I know what you mean.  Except what happens when I’m provoked is that my mind goes blank…   What should I have said, for instance, to the bottom-dweller who recently belittled my existence?   Even now, days later I still don’t know.  ?”

I love Christians.  I really do.  My parents are Christians, the majority of my friends would say that they are, and it was Christianity that shaped me into the person that I am today-A Jew in Training.  Thing is, and I’m sure I’ll find this in Judaism as well,  people really fuck things up.  I mean, I’m sure that this world that we live in today is not the world that Jesus had in mind when he passed on his message to the first Christians.  I’m sure God curses the day when he/she promised Noah that he’d never destroy human existence again (I don’t actually think that story is true, either). 

When I got gay-bashed on my 29th birthday outside of the Museum of Natural History by the awful and bigoted man disguised as a Christian I asked him, “Did not Jesus say ‘he who is without sin cast the first stone’  Did not Jesus befriend the sick, the diseased, the outcasts of the city?  Did he not marry a prostitute named Mary (sorry, that’s just my opinion)  The man didn’t listen and instead continued to damn me to hell for being who I am, all in the name of Jesus.

I’m sure this man on the train meant well.  I’m sure he felt like he was doing his duty as a Christian and “spreading the good news” but, if the good news is, “I’m right, you’re wrong”  I really don’t want to hear it.  I actually love having discussions with people about religion and faith.  Over the weekend I attended a PhD party with Mirs and had the best conversation with some Israeli Jews.  Some of my favorite scholastic moments were in religion classes when people actually listened, appreciated, and learned from others.  Thing about Christianity, Islam, Judaism is that they’re basically the same.  Almost exactly the same, give or take a messiah or prophet.  Yet it’s rare that “they” see eye to eye.  That’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who appreciate, understand, and respect other faiths.  I rarely hear those people.  I was reminded tonight that many people who quote the very book I’m reading aren’t actually getting it.  I can’t read that book and take it word for word because God gave me free will.   The Bible says a lot of stuff that people tend to forget when they’re using it to make their points and it says a lot of stuff that works for them when they’re trying to make their points.  I’m sure when the first brown Jews put oral words to paper that what we have and read today isn’t what they intended.  I don’t pretend to think that I’m better than anyone else, and I definitely don’t have everything all figured out.  I do, however, I appreciate an opinion and love hearing them, just as long as mine are heard, in turn.

Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescetarian, Kosher, Organic, Conventional Part Two

Moishe's Second Ave Home Made Kosher

I’ve been toying with the idea of going Kosher for a year.  As my readers know, I’m converting to Judaism.  I was supposed to have a meeting with a Rabbi at a temple in NYC last month but a few hours before our meeting her secretary called to let me know that we’d need to reschedule.  Since then, one of my DOBC friends, who’s also Jewish, told me that she attends the LGBT Shabbat services from time-to-time and thought maybe I’d like to attend there.  And to complicate things more I walked into a Jewish coffee shop and one of the ladies there asked if I wanted to meet with their Rabbi.  Ideally, I’m going to meet with all three and figure out which one I feel the most connection with.

Rabbi A I’m most interested in because the way that she likes to do conversions is on a one-on-one basis.  She told me that there will be many difficult questions and difficult times for both of us and that honesty can only come if we’re sitting in a room together.  I like that.  When I visited this temple for Shabbat services it was nice to see not only other LGBT folks in attendance but I saw 2 black attendants as well.

Rabbi B I’ve not talked to, only her secretary and only via e-mail.  This conversion is in a class setting complete with an open house that I’m attending in mid-August.  The draw here is that within a class I can converse with other converts and therefore carve out a little “family” with others who are in the same position as I.  Not only would I get the chance to talk to the Rabbi but sort of talk through things with folks just like me.  The fact that it’s NYC’s only and oldest LGBT Temple doesn’t hurt either.

Rabbi C I know very little about and is sort of just an option in case I’d like to get a different perspective. 

I’ve done lots of reading.  I’m in the middle of reading a book called The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel and just started The Five Books of Miriam by Ellen Frankel, PhD as well as re-reading the Tanakh, or Bible.  Reading a book “backwards” has been fun and while I’ve read the Bible several times via Catholic schooling, Baptist and Methodist church on Sundays with my parents throughout childhood and the year I tried really hard to be a good Episcopalian I’ve been quite moved by the reading that I’ve been doing and even had a dream about a bible passage I read before falling asleep last night. 

So at Anthropologie, one of my favorite associates was in on a conversation I was having with one of the girls who’d been raised Orthodox and therefore lived a Kosher childhood.  This associate suggested that I try to be Kosher for a year if I was really serious about conversion.  As far as I know, neither Rabbi A or B would suggest this for me.  Rabbi A is the spiritual leader for a Reform Temple but told me she was a Conservative Rabbi and Rabbi B’s temple does not identify under any denomination; Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox.  It is my understanding that Reform and Conservative movements do not strictly adhere to Kosher Laws and this would not be a part of the conversion process.  Still, she argued that I should consider it, just for a year, and I’ve been thinking about it on and off since that conversation.

My main concerns are pretty frivolous because I am lucky enough to live in NYC which may as well be called Little Judaica.  You can’t walk more than three blocks in most Brooklyn neighborhoods without seeing Hebrew so my options for Kosher groceries, more importantly Kosher meat products won’t be hard.  I’m wrestling with giving up pork because I love bacon, pork chops, steamed pork buns, pork loins, sausage patties and links, ribs…the list goes on and on.  The shell fish clause is also in the forefront of my mind.  Mirs and I have a mussels date almost once every month.  I’m also concerned about how Kosher I can really make my teeny, tiny kitchen.  Two of everything?  Meat and non-meat?  Can I really call myself Kosher if I do this (follow dietary laws) and not that (forgo separate utensils, dinner ware, etc.) and that (wait 1-6 hours between eating dairy and meat.  The Kashrut answer would be No, of course.   One of my favorite websites that I’ve been going back to for over a year is Judaism 101, written by a lay Orthodox man.  http://www.jewfaq.org/index.htm and it’s been very helpful to get an Orthodox perspective. 

On the other hand when I look past all of the restrictions there is the ethical treatment of animals that goes into the slaughter of Kosher (and Halal) meat.  (Ohhh, can I eat Halal?) that speaks to the way I shop for meat products any way.  Kosher animals live a good life, they’re prayed over and thanked before slaughter and the actual slaughter is done to be as pain free (as humanely possible) so that the animal dies instantly.  Yes, Veggies, the animal dies but I’d rather that then some of the footage I’ve seen in videos of animal “farmers.”  I’ve been pouring over Kosher and Jewish cook books at Barnes and Noble, especially those with a more Middle Eastern and African emphasis (because Jews did come from the continent of Africa) and am excited to start cooking in this new, healthier, shall I say more holy way?  It’s still a decision I’m wrestling with but we shall see.

Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescetarian, Kosher, Organic, Conventional…

I just started working for a grocer.  Yes, it’s true that I quit my fashion job.  A job I actually loved at Anthropologie after a year of torture.  I won’t get into any gory detail or point fingers and talk about who was to blame.  I’ve not stepped foot into a store in over a month which saddens me a bit, but more it fills my very being with blinded rage so it’s best I keep my distance. 

My new job isn’t any less stressful, in terms of the pace but thankfully, the atmosphere is one of genuine happiness and the people working there seem happy.  Working for a grocer, though, has proven to be quite interesting  I love to listen to the whys behind how people select their food.  With clothing it can be called petty indecisiveness but when it comes to food, something we all require to live can it still be called petty?  My immediate reaction was no!  It’s food, for godsake but as the weeks have continued I’m starting to think it kind of petty.

I love an educated shopper.  I especially love an educated food shopper.  That said, there are some interesting quirks when it comes people and food.  For instance, my first week I was almost in shock at the number of people looking for the non-organic food.  Where are the non-organic blueberries?  Do you have any non-organic beans?  Pardon?  Yes, let me show you your pesticide drenched berries.  I mean, finding bugs in my food isn’t always appetising but I’d rather have a stray bug then pesticides…that’s just me. 

You’re educated readers, I’m reminded all the time so I’m sure you’ve heard of the Top Ten List, right?  There are apparently 10 fruits and veggies that one should always eat organic because of the high amount of pesticides used to grow the non-organic varieties.  In case you were unaware here’s the list.

Apples: An apple a day is a good idea, but eat organic apples. Apples in any form may contain chlorpyrifos and methyl parathion.

* Grapes: Look for organic grapes, imported or domestic. Conventionally grown grapes have been shown to contain such chemicals as dimethoate, methyl parathion, and methomyl – an insecticide noted to be an endocrine disruptor.

* Green beans: Buy organic green beans to avoid three nervous system toxins: acephate, dimethoate and methamidophos.

* Peaches: If you buy no other organic fruits and vegetables, your choice in peaches should be organic. Peaches are probably THE worst of non-organic fruits. Non-organically grown peaches register high levels of iprodione residue. This despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified iprodione as a probable human carcinogen. In addition, a bite of non-organic peach also contains methyl parathion.

* Potatoes: Potatoes are a root crop, and as such, they are saturated with pesticides. Non-organic potatoes usually contain dieldrin and methamidophos.

* Raspberries: Compared to others in the top ten organic fruits and vegetables, organic raspberries may seem expensive. If you are going to eat raspberries, however, choose organic berries to avoid the triple dangers of captan, carbaryl, and iprodione.

* Spinach: Spinach is claimed among the best non-organic vegetables, but spinach often contains dimethoate and permethrin – a potential carcinogen.

* Strawberries: In order to increase sweetness, growers of non-organic strawberries are said to irrigate with NutraSweet laced water. And that red color? Why can’t they get that in organic fruit? The lovely red color is caused by the fungicide captan.

* Tomatoes: Anyone who has grown tomatoes, organically or non-organically, knows that insects are a problem. Non-organically grown tomatoes are protected from those insects by chlorpyrifos – the United States farmers’ most heavily used insecticide.

* Winter Squash: Families with young children should be especially sure their winter squash is among the top ten organic fruits and vegetables they buy. For every 100 conventionally grown winter squashes tested, 66 will contain Dieldrin and Heptachlor – powerful carcinogenic insecticides.

Thank you Organic Springtime for the help.  http://www.organicspringtime.com/

Just for good measure here’s another list of the top 15 from this site http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/practically-green/2009/08/top-15-organic-foods-to-buy-and-eat.html 

Highest pesticide levels:
1. Peach
2. Apple
3. Sweet bell pepper
4. Celery
5. Nectarine
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Grapes–imported
11. Carrot
12. Pear
13. Collard Greens
14. Spinach
15. Potato 

And the 15 with the lowest pesticide levels…

Lowest pesticide levels:
47. Onion
46. Avocado
45. Sweet corn–frozen
44. Pineapple
43. Mango
42. Asparagus
41. Sweet peas–frozen
40. Kiwi
39. Cabbage
38. Eggplant
37. Papaya
36. Watermelon
35. Broccoli
34. Tomato
33. Sweet potato

Of course, if you’re a meat eater you should always buy organic dairy, eggs, and meat products or at least from a farmer’s market so you can talk to the farmers-which is what I do when I cannot afford the farmer’s market.  You can also talk to your grocer and they’re usually quite informed about where their products come from.  You should also be a label reader, do your own research and find out what’s best for you.

I met a woman the other day who picked up a magazine on the streets of New York called GO VEGETARIAN or something and decided, in that moment, reading the PETA advertised bashing of meat that she was going to be giving up all meat, dairy, and eggs.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I have many vegetarian friends and lots of vegan friends and I respect all of their decisions because they were learned decisions.  This woman, I was a little taken aback by and I openly talked her about why she was making this decision, based on one magazine and seemingly zero other research into other food-choice options.  As she shuffled through the store with her magazine at her nose she examined labels and disregarded nearly every healthful option for sodium-fused, high calorie “meatless” varieties.

Mirs went vegan for a while and still likes to get crafty in her kitchen figuring out how to make the meals she loves vegan.  This is the type of vegan I love.  Creativity.  Junk Food Vegans-those veggies who instead of getting crafty with blended and puree fruits and veggies and instead opt for packaged, prepared foods make my skin crawl.  If you’re going to stuff your body with that “crap” then why give up meat and cheese at all?  I’m ranting and far-off the mark and according to my word count clicker I’m way passed my normal word limit so this will be continued tomorrow. 

Let me close by saying that I love a consumer who makes wise choices.  I do not purchase non-organic meat and when I do I chose local farmers who I chat to at the market.  I actually went an entire trip home with out dairy, eggs, cheese, and meat because there weren’t any organic options in Toledo.  I always cook veggie first for my veggie friends and have gone so far as to cook BBQ on two separate grills because I do respect the beauty that is choice…


Love and Marriage

Tonight Mirs and I spent the evening with our favorite couple who are to be wed in August.  We watched the Celtics forget how to rebound and make actual baskets and lose to the Lakers.  While we were watching the disgraceful loss of a phenomenal lead I started thinking about love and marriage and what it all means.  I was engaged once, did you know that?  If you’re a dedicated reader you should!  At 21 I was engaged to marry a man named Barry.  That’s all we’ll say about it, really but I can say with complete certainty that there was no love in the marriage (wedding) I was planning with him.

Seeing these two women tonight, though, it’s clear what love looks like.  It’s not that my life is absent of love because it is not.  I love Mirs with my entire being and I’m confident that she’s the woman I want to spend my life with-we’re not there yet, though.  As much as the little girl who’s been planning her wedding since adolescent wants to come out at 30 I have a greater appreciation for what it is to love.  Real Love.  It’s sometimes quite messy, it can be unpleasant, and seemingly unbearable.  It’s also constant, changing, sincere and deep.  There is something comforting in the love that I share with my girlfriend because it seems even-a wonderful ebb and flow.  Balance.

At 21 the idea of Marriage had nothing to do with marriage at all and everything to do with the wedding.  At 30 I want nothing (well not really) to do with the wedding and want to focus on the marriage.  Studying Judaism has been amazingly eye-opening in terms of marriage and the contract that binds the couple.  When I think of marriage I think of family, structure, laughter, happiness, hardship, strength, and courage.  I think of having children, watching them grow, and growing old with one person.  I always joke to Mirs that when we’re very old that we have to find really hot nurses to care for us.  It’s objectification, for sure, but the beauty of old age is that you can get away with far more than you can when you are young.  Joking aside, I imagine walking around the property I share with Mirs (oh yes, there’s property) hand-in-hand on a cool summer evening.  I think of her teaching our children how to throw a curve ball, shoot a layup and how to plant a garden.

It’s this image of togetherness that I immediately see when I hear the word marriage.  In Jewish wedding vows there is no “for better of for worse” mentioned.  It’s rather about a partnership between two people.  There is still the small girl inside me who wants the dress, the cake, the walk down the aisle.  Now, though the dress is vintage and simple, the cakes are cupcakes with our names in sugar frosting script and our parents walk us down the aisle to a chuppah made of cloth we found at a thrift store on our travels.

Black, Gay, and Jewish Part 3

So my appointment with the Rabbi is on the 15th.  While I’ve only attended one Shabbat celebration at the Temple I’ve been doing a lot of reading and soul searching.  Thankfully, a lot of friends and family members have been helpful in asking me a lot of hard questions, which I’m sure the Rabbi will ask me as well.

1.  Why do you want to be a Jew?  Do you know what’s going on in Gaza right now?    That’s a question I got the other day.  Yes, I’m aware of what’s going on in Gaza right now but for me, it’s important to realize that not all Jews agree with Israeli occupation, not all Jews are Israelis, not all Jews are Zionists.  Personally, I think what’s going on in the region is fucked beyond belief.  I also think that it has less to do with belief and more to do with politics and power.  Those things are tricky and can make things really hazy. 

And why do I want to be a Jew?  Why not is probably the wrong answer.  Luckily, it’s not my answer and I’m not quite sure how to word the answer except to say that it feels right.  I’ve been a spiritual wanderer for as long as I can remember.  Growing up as a child of Baptist and Methodist parents attending a Catholic school and surrounded by Christians and Muslims a like I never knew a Jewish person until college.  In the time from grade school awe of Jesus to my rejection of Christianity as a college freshman I rejected all monotheistic faiths for Paganism.  I tried that on for about 5 years and can still cast with the best of them but when I came to NYC and was surrounded by so many beautiful houses of worship I tried on the Episcopalian hat. 

I loved that the Episcopal church ordained woman clergy, I loved that they welcomed gays and lesbians but as I took communion every Sunday I doubted and after a year I stopped attending all together.   When I opened my first Jewish Book, Being Jewish, by Ari Goldman I felt at ease; at home.  It sounds incredibly cliché but I immediately felt a sense of calm come over my being and I felt happy.  I was engrossed and in awe in a way that I can’t really explain except that it feels right.

I’ve since read Living a Jewish Life and Choosing a Jewish Life  both by Anita Diamant and The Color of Jews by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz.

Black, Gay and Jewish Part Two

Friday was Shabbat Services at the Village Temple and with great trepidation this black lesbian set foot into a synagogue for the first time.  Technically it was the second time since I’d chatted with the Cantor the week prior but the first time I stepped foot into a synagogue with the intention of going in, sitting down, and willing myself through an entire service composed mostly of Hebrew, a language I haven’t the faintest clue about.

Just the walking in part was really nerve racking and although I’ve finished Being Jewish, Choosing a Jewish Life and am half way through Living a Jewish Life I was not at all prepared.  My fears and reservations were subdued by the sweet gentle men who wished me, “Shabbat Shalom” when I walked into the foyer of the Temple.  There was lingering outside of the Temple doors before we were escorted in with blue binders that contained all of the prayers for service.  It took me a while to get the swing of things, the fact that the binder opened from the back threw me but after the third Psalm I allowed myself to stop trying to read the Hebrew phonetics of the songs or their English translations and just enjoyed the sound of this ancient language around me.

I’d be lying if I said that I was comfortable but I know I wasn’t uncomfortable.  I also know that while I have no idea how to speak Hebrew I have a desire to learn.  I was comforted by the queer couple behind me, the Latina woman who offered me wine, and the black man with a kippah on his bowed head as his lips moved while reciting Psalms and prayers in Hebrew.   My meeting with the Rabbi is next month so I have time to visit a few more synagogues and read more books.  So far, though, I’m feeling a little nervous but very confident in my decision.