Passover begins tonight (Monday March 25, 2013) at sunset.
I will be in Toronto for a little over a week.
Have a happy, kosher and joyful Passover.
I’ll should be back Wednesday April 3.
See you then!
Posted in Faith, Family, Holidays, Israel, Jews/Judaism, Kosher, My Life, Religion, Spirituality, tagged Faith, Family, Holidays, Israel, Jewish, Jews, kosher, My Life, Passover, Religion, Spirituality on March 25, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Passover begins tonight (Monday March 25, 2013) at sunset.
I will be in Toronto for a little over a week.
Have a happy, kosher and joyful Passover.
I’ll should be back Wednesday April 3.
See you then!
Posted in Faith, Family, Israel, Jews/Judaism, Kids, Kosher, Musings, My Life, Parenting, Personal Observations, Photography, Photos, Religion, Spirituality, Travel, tagged Faith, Family, Israel, Jewish, Jews, Judaism, Kids, kosher, Musings, My Life, parenting, Personal Observations, Photography, Photos, Religion, Spirituality, Travel on February 12, 2013 | 9 Comments »
On Monday, I arrived in Israel for the first time in my life after so many years… decades… of waiting, hoping, praying.
I came alone.
I knew it was going to be emotional. I knew it was going to be intense.
I was prepared… or so I thought.
It was like being prepared to be hit by a bus… compared to actually being hit by a bus.
When the plane touched down in Tel Aviv, I began weeping. 
I could barely stand. Other passengers grabbed their carry on bags and headed out. I was in a daze.
I made my way through a blur of tears. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I moved as if in a trance. Was this really happening? Am I in one of the thousands of dreams and daydreams I’ve had over the last 30 or 40 years?
I was nervous about being questioned by Israeli authorities. Who was I? Where was I from? Where was I born? Why was I coming to Israel? Was I Jewish? A Jew with an Italian name? Were my parents Jewish? Did I convert? What rabbinical court converted me? My daughter lives in Israel? She immigrated to Israel? Where does she live? What is her address? Is this my first visit? What prayer does a Jew make when he embarks on a trip? Recite the first line. Do I wear tefillin? When do I wear them? When do I NOT wear them? What was the Torah reading for last Shabbes? What’s the Torah reading for next Shabbes? Was I married? Did I have an aufrufen? Did I read from the Torah? What was the Torah portion? Can I recite the first line from my haftorah portion? What holiday is coming up in 2 weeks? What book is read? Recite the blessings that are read before the book is read. Can you read the first few lines from that book? Do you know the melody that goes with that reading?
I had heard so many stories about Israeli security. I was nervous. I stepped up to the customs officer and handed her my passport.
“What is the purpose of your visit?”
I explained that this was my first visit to Israel and that I came to see my daughter who made aliyah (i.e. emigrated to Israel) a year ago.
“Where does she live?”
I told her she lives in Ramat Gan.
“How long are you going to be in Israel?”
I said I was staying for two weeks, returning on February 25.
The customs officer looked at me for a few moments, sizing me up.
She smiled and handed me back my passport and told me to proceed to baggage claims.
I walked to the baggage claim area and searched for my luggage. A plain black suitcase. My dear friend (and international travel guide) Tracy suggested I attach some brightly-coloured masking tape or cloth to make it distinguishable. I found it. Both wheels were broken off.
I extended the handle and dragged the suitcase behind me as I moved out into the main lobby. I felt numb. It all seemed so unreal. I couldn’t help feeling that I was going to wake up at any moment.
A tall handsome young man with a wide smile. Tomer. My daughter’s boyfriend. He waves and comes to me, giving me a big warm tight hug.
And then I see my beloved daughter. I’ve not laid eyes on her in over a year.
I cry again. I can’t help it. Tomer helps me with my crippled suitcase.
We walk out into the fresh air. I breathe it deep into my lungs.
I’m here. I feel I’ve finally come home to a place to which I’ve never been before.
 Actually, I started crying as soon as I heard the landing gear lowering.
It’s been a week fraught with interest in Israel.
Serious flooding in Tel Aviv!
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem and the surrounding Judean hills…
I’ll be visiting Israel for two weeks in a month’s time (Feb. 10 – 25). Can’t wait!
If I can, I’ll still blog from there and give you my impressions of Israel, its sites and people.
Posted in Children, Family, Fashion, Musings, Parenting, Photography, Photos, Psychology, Research, Science, Style, Thoughts, tagged Children, Family, Fashion, Musings, parenting, Photography, Photos, Research, science, Style, Thoughts on August 17, 2012 | 94 Comments »
Hats off once again to the gang over at ScienceDaily.com for blowing the lid off of this story.
New research from New Zealand’s University of Otago is casting doubt on a landmark US study that suggested infants as young as six months old possess an innate moral compass that allows them to evaluate individuals as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
The 2007 study by Yale University researchers provided the first evidence that 6- and 10-month-old infants could assess individuals based on their behaviour towards others, showing a preference for those who helped rather than hindered another individual.
Based on a series of experiments, researchers in the Department of Psychology at Otago have shown that the earlier findings may simply be the result of infants’ preferences for interesting and attention grabbing events, rather than an ability to evaluate individuals based on their social interactions with others.
The Otago study was recently published in PLoS One, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal.
In the original Yale experiment, infants watched a wooden toy (i.e., the “climber”) attempt to climb a hill. They viewed two social interactions; one in which a “helper” toy nudged the climber up the hill, and another in which a “hinderer” toy nudged the climber down the hill.
After viewing these two scenarios, the infants were presented with a tray; on one side of the tray was the helper and on the other side was the hinderer. Amazingly, the majority of infants picked the helper over the hinderer. To further elucidate infants’ moral reasoning abilities, a “neutral” toy (i.e., a toy that neither helped nor hindered) was pitted against the helper or hinderer. When the neutral character was paired with the helper, the infants preferred the helper; when paired with the hinderer, they preferred the neutral character.
The paper concluded that the experiments show that infants can evaluate individuals based on how they interact with another individual, and that their ability to do this is ‘universal and unlearned’.
Lead Otago author Dr Damian Scarf says that the Yale study caused an international sensation when it was published in the leading journal Nature.
After reviewing videos of the Yale experiments, the Otago researchers noticed that two obvious perceptual events could be driving infants’ choices.
“On the help and hinder trials, the toys collided with one another, an event we thought infants may not like. Furthermore, only on the help trials, the climber bounced up and down at the top of hill, an event we thought infants may enjoy.”
The researchers carried out a series experiments to test these assumptions and, by manipulating the collision and bouncing events, were able to show that these perceptual events were driving infants’ choices of the helper over the hinderer, Dr Scarf says.
In other words, the infants couldn’t care less who was helping and who was hindering. They chose the one who was bouncing around more because it amused them.
“For example,” continues Dr Scarf, “when we had the climber bounce at the bottom of the hill, but not at the top of the hill, infants preferred the hinderer, that is, the one that pushed the climber down the hill. If the social evaluation hypothesis was correct, we should have seen a clear preference for the helper, irrespective of the location of the bounce, because the helper always helped the climber achieve its goal of reaching the top of the hill.”
So there you have it, boys and girls.
A generation of cold, heartless infants. They will be the ones who will eventually choose the nursing homes in which we end up.
Better start bouncing around now, folks!
Be sure to check out my sister blog, Vampyre Fangs!
Posted in Animals, Children, Family, Health, Kids, Life, Lifestyle, Musings, Nature, Parenting, People, Research, Science, Thoughts, tagged Animals, Children, Family, Health, Kids, Life, Lifestyle, Musings, Nature, parenting, People, Pets, Research, science on July 16, 2012 | 1 Comment »
I love this article which I read at United-Academics.org.
Babies are healthier when there is a dog at home.
New research published in Pediatrics suggests that children living with a dog are significantly healthier than those living without it. The researchers followed up 397 Finnish children, asking their parents to fill in weekly questionnaires about their health until they were 1 year old. Scientists believe that this is so because dog contact helps the babies build up their immune system.
The results showed that children with a dog at home were healthy for about 73% of the time, while the percentage on children without a dog was of 65%. According to the study, the former ‘had fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections’, as well as ‘less frequent otitis and tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics’ than those without dog contacts, according to Eija Bergroth, the study’s lead author and a pediatrician affiliated with Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland.
Moreover, when dogs spent most of their time outside the home, the babies were healthier.
Dogs that spend a lot of time outside are likely to bring more dirt and bacteria inside the home compared with dogs that spend more time indoors. Researchers believe that exposure to dirt and bacteria builds up babies’ immune systems.
The study emphasizes the benefits of exposure to animals, at least when it comes to the so-called ‘man’s best friend’. The researchers also analyzed cat contacts, but it seems that the influence of cats on the baby’s health was weaker.
Posted in Children, Design, Family, Fashion, Health, Kids, Lifestyle, Modern Culture, Parenting, Photography, Psychology, Research, Science, Society, Style, tagged Children, Family, Fashion, Health, Kids, Lifestyle, Modern Culture, parenting, Photography, Research, science, Style on July 6, 2012 | 1 Comment »
As set out in a recent article in MedicalDaily.com website, girls who spend more time updating pictures, chatting and surfing the internet are more likely to suffer from negative body image and low self-esteem, says a new study.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 as part of the The NetGirls Project. They found that 40 percent of girls thought their bodies weren’t good enough and that they were scared about gaining weight.
The study also showed that 96 percent of girls said that they had access to some form of internet connection at home and of these girls, 72 percent said that they uploaded pictures of themselves on the internet.
On an average, girls spend about 3.5 hours on the internet and particularly on sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
Just about 30 percent of the girls said that their parents set rules about internet use at home.
“We set out to investigate the role of media in adolescent girls’ self-image. We were interested to find out how adolescent girls were spending their free time and how different activities related to how they felt about themselves and their bodies. Our findings demonstrate a worrying correlation between excessive media use, particularly social media and the internet, and lower self-esteem, body-esteem and sense of identity and higher depression,” said Dr Amy Slater from the School of Psychology at Flinders University, Australia.
Television and magazines are often regarded as factors that influence girls to be thinner .There are hundreds of studies that draw conclusions between media like television and magazines with poor self-esteem or body image.
Researchers of the present study will also be presenting analysis of 600 advertisements in social media directed at young girls, according to a news release.
“A content analysis of adverts found on sites that appeal to adolescent girls showed likely exposure to those reinforcing the importance of beauty and thinness,” Dr Slater explains
The study was presented at the Appearance Matters 5 conference and should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
(Photo: REUTERS/Michael Dalder)
Posted in Children, Cooking, Family, Health, Life, Lifestyle, Modern Culture, Musings, Nature, Parenting, Research, Science, Society, Thoughts, tagged Children, cooking, Family, Health, Life, Lifestyle, Modern Culture, Musings, Nature, Reseach, science, Thoughts on June 8, 2012 | 2 Comments »
I was born and grew up in a small city. 
I suppose it was suburban. It’s probably a stretch to call it urban metropolitan living.
My city was/is located in the middle of what was then a sprawling agricultural area, so even while I myself grew up on pavement and asphalt, it was an island of concrete in a sea of strawberries, cherries, peaches and grapes.
As far as I could tell, everyone of my generation loved peanut butter. We couldn’t get enough of it. Everyone liked eggs. Everyone drank milk and lots of it.
I thought about this as a was reading an article at ScienceDaily.com reporting on a study that found that city kids are more likely to have food allergies than rural children and that population density is a key factor.
Children living in urban centers have a much higher prevalence of food allergies than those living in rural areas, according to a new study, which is the first to map children’s food allergies by geographical location in the United States. In particular, kids in big cities are more than twice as likely to have peanut and shellfish allergies compared to rural communities. 
Here are the key findings of the study:
When I was in grade school, I don’t recall any of my friends or indeed anyone I knew suffering or dying from food allergies. Did they all die before making it to kindergarten?
In high school, my dear friend Jo McB (and, for all I know, the entire McB clan) had food allergies but I didn’t know it. It just wasn’t on the radar.
Nowadays, it seems like every other kid is allergic to some food or another.
Not sure if it was an urban legend but I recall hearing a story from one city (let’s say it was New York) where it was discovered that one child on a school bus had a peanut butter sandwich. They halted the bus and practically brought in a hazmat team to dispose of the toxic substance.
Sadly, the study, while showing urban living is a key factor in food allergies, doesn’t yet show us why. Further research is required.
Food allergy is a serious and growing health problem. An estimated 5.9 million children under age 18, or one out of every 13 children, now have a potentially life-threatening food allergy, according to 2011 research by Gupta. A severe allergic reaction that can lead to death includes a drop in blood pressure, trouble breathing and swelling of the throat. A food-allergic reaction sends an American to the emergency room every three minutes, according to a March 2011 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
 About 40,000 at the time. Around 50,000 now
 The study will be published in the July issue of Clinical Pediatrics. The study controlled for household income, race, ethnicity, gender and age. It tracked food allergy prevalence in urban centers, metropolitan cities, urban outskirts, suburban areas, small towns and rural areas.
Posted in Children, Community, Culture, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Israel, Jews/Judaism, Kids, Kosher, Life, Lifestyle, Modern Culture, Musings, My Life, Parenting, People, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts, tagged Children, Community, Culture, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Israel, Jewish, Jews, Judaism, Kids, Life, Lifestyle, Modern Culture, Musings, parenting, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts on May 25, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
A bit of explanation is in order.
Aish = Aish HaTorah. 
Aish HaTorah is an apolitical network of Jewish educational centers in 35 branches on five continents. 
Aish is all about Jewish education and kiruv… drawing Jews closer to G-d. 
There is an expression for Jews who, through the educational and kiruv work of Aish HaTorah, become more connected to Judaism and more observant. It is said they get “Aished.”
 The name Aish HaTorah literally means “Fire of Torah.” As Elie Weisel said: “Aish HaTorah means to me the passion of teaching, the passion of learning. The study of Torah, the source of Jewish values, is the way to Jewish survival.”
 Aish HaTorah is a Jewish outreach organization started in Jerusalem by Rabbi Noah Weinberg z”l in 1974. Aish HaTorah’s goal is to revitalize the Jewish people by providing opportunities for Jews of all backgrounds to discover their heritage in an atmosphere of open inquiry and mutual respect. Aish HaTorah is regarded as a world leader in creative Jewish educational programs and leadership training.
 Aish’s educational philosophy is that Judaism is not all or nothing; it is a journey where every step counts, to be pursued according to one’s own pace and interest. Mitzvot (commandments) are not rituals, but opportunities for personal growth, to be studied and understood. We learn the Torah’s wisdom to enrich our own lives, and to share these ideas with all humanity.
Posted in Children, Community, Culture, Family, Israel, Jews/Judaism, Kids, Life, Lifestyle, Musings, My Life, Parenting, People, Personal Observations, Relationships, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts, Travel, tagged Children, Family, Israel, Jewish, Jews, Judaism, Kids, Life, Lifestyle, Musings, My Life, People, Relationships, Religion, Thoughts, Travel on April 30, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Tomorrow morning, May 1, 2012, my son, Exhibit Two , flies off back to Israel.
His sister, my daughter Exhibit One, did the program last August.
(My son, Exhibit Two, at the Western Wall, Jerusalem)
After his three weeks in Jerusalem, he plans to spend the next three weeks with Exhibit One in Ashdod, a lovely port city on the Mediterranean coast between Gaza and Tel Aviv.
They miss each other terribly and can’t wait to see each other again.
After that, my son will be working as a counselor at a Jewish summer camp in deepest, darkest New Jersey!
Sounds like an amazing summer!
I hope and pray that all goes well and that he returns to Canada safe and sound.
 When I was a young rōnin, I was for several years in a relationship and living with an even younger partner. While I did not fully appreciate it at the time, we were in a common-law marriage. That person is, therefore, my ‘first spouse’ ['SA'], as opposed to the person I legally married (then legally divorced) many years later ['WHN']. My children, Exhibits One and Two, were tendered into evidence during the second marriage.
Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Humour, Italian, Life, Modern Culture, Musings, My Life, Opinion, People, Personal Observations, Thoughts, tagged Culture, Family, Modern Culture, Musings, My Life, Opinion, People, Personal Observations, Thoughts on April 20, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Ever been within earshot of elderly people when they are in mid-rant?
I don’t know what happens to older people when they reach a certain point in their lives. Perhaps old age loosens inhibitions, kind of like drugs or alcohol but without the knowledge that tomorrow, everything will be back to normal and you’ll be in your twenties again. Maybe they are just so damned tired of it all.
Don’t ignore what they are saying. Tune in. Catch a few gems from what is left of the minds of people who have been around so long, they remember when there was only one World War. 
I remember an aunt who took me aside one day and said, perfectly seriously, “Never marry a French girl! You’ll spend the rest of your life eating out of a can!” To this day, I’ve never been in a relationship with a French girl. I’m not sure that ready-to-eat tinned food had anything to do with it. I don’t think so, anyway.
I also had a grandmother who held some pretty crisp views on Orientals. I use the world ‘Orientals’ because said grandmother did not distinguish between the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Thais, etc. In fact, she may very well have been surprised (and more than a little disturbed) to hear that there were more than one kind of Oriental. To her, they were all “i cinese”… pronounced “ee chee-NEH-seh”… i.e. the Chinese.
To be honest, I sincerely doubt that my grandmother ever met an Oriental person, Chinese or otherwise, so I am not altogether sure how she came by her strongly-held beliefs. But she was not loathe to expound on the subject, believe you me.
So, next time an old person goes off on a tear on one topic or another… e.g. an uncle of mine complains about the government full-time… give a listen. You’ll probably not learn anything new but see if it doesn’t make you think about what you yourself will be harping on about when you are in your dotage.
 BTW: In case you never thought about it, it was only called World War One when people figured out we better start numbering them. Before then, WW1 was called The Great War or simply, the War. NB: To people in The South, “The War” refers to the American Civil War (i.e. the War of Northern Aggression).