Monday, August 25, 2014

Queen Esther/Hadassah & How To Live As A Jew In A Christian Nation

Queen Esther - A Proud Jewish Woman.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe visits North Carolina, Dec. 31, 1989

Jewish people believe that your Hebrew name is important. It is deeply linked to who you are. 

My Hebrew name is Hadassah. It was one of the names of Queen Esther, who overcame her fear to beg the Persian King Achashverosh to save the lives of the Jewish people. This is why Jews celebrate the holiday of Purim each year, to commemorate our salvation.

With the support of the Jewish community, which had been praying and fasting for her, Esther revealed that one of the king's advisers, Haman, was the architect of a plot to kill all the Jews in the kingdom.

Esther knew this from her uncle, Mordechai, who had raised her and who had been targeted by Haman for refusing to bow down to him. (Jews only bow to G-d.)

The question comes up, why did Esther have two names. Briefly, "Esther" refers to her bringing spirituality into the physical world, where it is normally concealed. In fact the essence of her activity in the Purim story is how she managed to conceal in order to reveal the truth.

  • She was a Jew among non-Jews, the queen, and had to maintain her identity and be part of the kingdom. 
  • She had secured a place of relative safety, and was terrified of being killed. 
  • She was aware of the grave danger that her uncle was in, but she couldn't walk around showing it. 
  • And she knew that Haman was both crazy and evil, yet she couldn't simply walk into the king's office and tell him, or he could have her killed. 

That's why "Esther" is also "Hadassah." Technically a "hadas" is a myrtle, which is sweet. In Judaism this refers to her righteous character. Her dedication to doing the right thing.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe briefly explained what the name Hadassah means in particular.

"Hadassah was the name of Queen Esther, who was not afraid to live among non-Jews and to show an example of how a Jew must be proud of his or her inheritance, and to live everyday life in the same direction, with happiness and much success." - The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 1989

As a child I joined the Lubavitch/Chabad "Tzivos Hashem" movement, which was about doing mitzvot (good deeds) as a way of "fighting" for G-d in a world full of evil, pain and anger. Fighting with deeds not weapons.

As a grownup I was for a very long time afraid to own my Jewish identity publicly, for a lot of reasons. One of them was the common idea (among religious Jews) that we don't want to stir up "trouble," meaning anti-Semitism, because America is a predominantly Christian nation.

I've gotten over that. It's important to me to be Jewish, and Jewish publicly, and to own my beliefs and opinions the same way everywhere.

Hadassah was afraid too.

* All opinions my own. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

At JFK, A Lesson In Diversity

I'll be honest. I miss New York.

Spending time up here today wasn't just a throwback to the sights, the smells, the culture.

I miss the sheer variety of people. Literally every nation on earth, hanging out at the Welcome Center at JFK. Or so it seemed.

There was the usual array of "interesting" behavior. 

One guy kept yelling, "Where's Air Train 3?"

There was PDA.

And the usual "I'm staring at me staring at you," suspiciously. (Are you hovering over my backpack for a reason?)

But the nicest thing about today's visit nice the people were. Not rude at all, like I remember.

I accidentally ran luggage over someone's toes and he didn't yell at me.

A lady gave my daughter plastic cutlery across a crowded line. She couldn't reach it but hadn't asked.

A waitress let us sit in the diner longer than we should've, and gave us two scoops of vanilla ice cream, the second complimentary.

Amid all these different people stood the El Al ticket counter and the Emirates one. Religious beyond religious people on both sides. Not only weren't they fighting, they barely noticed each other.

Peace can happen. Today showed it.

* All opinions my own.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Inner Shame, Your Greatest Career Asset

Image via Some ECards
I hate vampire shows, but for awhile they were a monster, moneymaking trend. 

A few years ago, Maureen Dowd wrote about her long-ago "suppressed" passion for these fanged fiends (sorry!) in her New York Times column. She concludes:
"Sometimes the thing that’s weird about you is the thing that’s cool about you." 
And she offers some career advice:
"What needs to be nurtured is the stuff that’s different, that sets you apart from the pack, rather than the stuff that helps you blend in."
This is Branding 101. Relevant differentiation. Positioning.

She says:
"Let your freak flag fly."
Mary Lambert is riding the trend with her song "Secrets," which just hit the Billboard charts.

Here are some of the lyrics, via When I heard them on the radio I was literally startled.

"I've got bi-polar disorder/ My shit's not in order/ I'm overweight / I'm always late / I've got too many things to say/ I rock mom jeans, cat earrings / Extrapolate my feelings / My family is dysfunctional / But we have a good time killing each other."

Celebrating dysfunctionality is why Justin Batemen is having a new moment.

As is Melissa McCarthy.

I love the show Married on FX, which completely celebrates the dysfunctionality and married life.

Plus it's about my friend, whose husband is the producer, who said, in a recent interview about the show:
"Nick Grad [President of Original Programming at FX] took me out for a long sushi lunch and really pushed me to do something really personal. And that lead to 'Married.'"
There are tons more examples. I could do a dissertation on Penelope Trunk and her inner struggle over giving up a promising career to be a full time mom, to overcome an admittedly screwed up childhood.

Twenty years ago Queer Nation was ahead of its time with the slogan "We're Here! We're Queer!"

Remember that?

Screenshot via Windy City Media Group
Now is the time.

Whatever you are, just be.

* All opinions my own.

Overcoming The Cumbersome Clearance Process for Social Media In Government

FYI #2 for today. A bunch of related ideas here. All opinions my own, as always.


Urgency: What Great Government Communication Requires

FYI. All opinions my own.