Notes From The Great Kashrus Experiment

Funny how things come full circle.

I grew up in a kosher home and struggled with a more liberal definition of what I could eat. 

I remember the first time I ate pizza from "the outside." It "tasted" so good to be "free," but you know what it wasn't even good! (Ben Yehuda pizza fresh from the oven - WOW!)

So my kids grew up in a kosher home, but we weren't "fanatical about hechshers" if the ingredients were kosher. We ate out, just kept it vegetarian and no trafe fish.

Of course all this hassle is partly because outside NY/NJ your kosher choices are limited. Super limited. But it's also a bit of rebellion.

Now it seems worthwhile to keep more strict kashrut at home. So that my kids can eat with us.

Oh and also because my daughter Rebecca said to me, flat out, "I don't want to hear about any more '613s' unless you do something to be more religious." 

In the big scheme of things, what exactly is so hard about labeling one pot milchig, one fleishig and one pareve again?

Nothing unless you have the mindset of a kid: "Nobody gonna tell me what to do."

Uh, that ship has sailed! Lots of people do in fact tell me what to do every day and that my dear is called LIFE.

So, at this time we have achieved partial victory, in the form of a kashered oven & microwave. (Even if we have to re-kasher the microwave after reheating food from the outside.)


Thank you HaShem for the great blessing of life and the chance to learn on this Earth.

I enjoyed making Shabbos food last night.


By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.

Anxiety About Conflict Brings About Conflict

My subconscious belief has always been that conflict is a monster. A hideous monster. One that we should avoid at all costs. 

So that the moment any hint of conflict appears, we must make every effort to get rid of it.

A further hidden belief was that conflict is so intolerable, so awful, that we must surface it immediately the moment any hint of it appears.

That by surfacing it, we would somehow inevitably "discuss" it and "negotiate" it and finally, in the end, make it go away.

To operate your life in such a manner is of course extremely dangerous.

Not all conflict must be articulated!

You have to pick your battles.

Reminds me of a story - one time, a long time ago, I was walking home (this was in the Bronx) and passed a gang of young teens roaming around the street, yelling and fighting and generally making trouble. 

Of course, conflict is intolerable, right? (At this point you are allowed to start shaking your head...) So I started to walk up to this gang, prepared to tell them to cut it out.

Thank God, my survival instincts kicked in.

I walked back across the street, away from the kids. And got home as quickly as I could.


Entering into conflict is a choice. 

It may not feel like a choice, but it is.

Here's what recent training taught me to do:
  • Expect conflict to occur.
  • View it as a potentially positive development, one that can spur growth through change.
  • Also view it as a potentially negative development, one that can escalate harmfully.
  • Stop and think about the fact that you have a choice.

In the end, you can walk away, you can fight to win, or you can find a middle ground.

But you are never, ever the victim -- unless you  choose to think of yourself that way.

Posted July 28, 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. This post is public domain.

Left Needs Right. Both Need Civil Servants.

A post like this should begin with a clear articulation of who you are and what kind of bias you’re bringing to the discussion.

So let me put it out there, briefly: Libertarian; MAGA; civil servant. (Of course, all opinions are my own…yada, yada, yada.)
I vocally support President Trump online, which frequently leads to responses like this:
“TRUMP MUST GO.” (Facebook) 
“How far does he have to go until u say enough is enough? Hes a sexist, lying, transphobic, anti Muslim idiot. WHAT MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU NEED.” (Twitter)
Do I have to agree with every single thing that other people post? Do they have to agree with me? Of course not.

The free and open exchange of ideas is what made America great in the first place. And attempts to take away that freedom of speech — which regularly occur in every organized group known to humankind — never end well.

In a healthy society, robust debate promotes advancement in every respect. So we need more than just stressed-out tolerance; we actually need to elicit opposing views.

Sometimes I visit 4Chan, Reddit and Voat. The conversations going on there are incredible. Hordes of anonymous users contributing content, weeding out fake news and disinformation, a gigantic colony of ants ferreting out any possible nugget of data or insight.

Social media, in its purest form, creates an entity larger than itself. Not the “hive mind,” which implies the death of individual liberty. But it does represent the “integrated mind” of a culture, one which can absorb but not drown its wildly divergent parts.

But what of the civil servant in all of this? Where do they stand in any diagram of the relationship between elected officials and the public?

Put simply, the two are yin and yang. Although I think we tend to forget that.

The politician is there (theoretically, at least) to get results for the people. All the people, not just the ones who elected them.

The civil servant is there (also theoretically) to carry out the functions of the government agency in which they serve, be it federal, state or local.

Yes, the real world makes mincemeat of our ideals.

But even in a perfect one, the politician and the civil servant will never see things the same way. Not at all.

What’s more, they aren’t supposed to.

There is an intended tension between the group elected to “make transformational change” (of whatever kind) and the group hired to keep the transformational change agents from blowing everyone up in the process.

And I think, at some point, all of us have forgotten that.

Because (and at what point this happened I’m not sure) the politicians seem to have decided to simply work around the civil servants as much as possible.

While the civil servants seem to have decided that they know better than the President. And that the administrative, unelected state is a somehow a legitimate entity in its own right.

Both sides, I think, have gone off the rails.

As a rule, extremism is never good.

It pits people against each other unnecessarily.

It distracts us from our common goals.

And it stops us from fighting our true common enemy, corruption — the carbon monoxide of democracy.


Posted on July 27, 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. The content of this post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo credit: congerdesign/Pixabay (public domain).

Nobody Has Time For Your Nonsense

I’ve heard a lot of excuses for bad communication in my life. (Branding, communication, public relations, marketing….call it what you want, it all comes down to the same thing.)

The bottom line is this. If you’re paying another human being, or a group of human beings, to make words and pictures and moving digital things on your behalf — to make you look good — then it does not behoove you to dismiss the expertise of those very people. 

Because the people out there, you know, the great unwashed masses, they don’t care about your excuses or why you couldn’t get past yourself to do the right thing.

And when it comes to communication, that thing is always to express the totality of the organization. 

The good, the bad, and the ugly, from the fun and fluffy ribbon-cuttings to the boring, incomprehensible financial disclosures.

So if you are saying any of the following things to your communicators, either expressly or implicitly, you might want to reconsider the utility to your organization (e.g., is it worth it). 

Because the bottom line is — nobody wants to hear it.

Category I. Denial (a.k.a. “Nothing To See Here, Let’s Move On”)
  • “Historically we’ve never done things that way.”
  • “Communication doesn’t deal with policy or legal matters. ”
  • “We don’t need social media in our news clips. Nobody reads Twitter and Facebook.”
  • “Don’t you think you’re being a bit melodramatic?”
  • “Why do we have to talk about this if nobody asked?”
Category II. Stall For Time 
  • “Why don’t you ask X for permission and tell me what they say?”
  • “Our partners have to agree to that first.”
  • “Above my pay grade.”
  • “I don’t know who’s in charge of making that decision.”
  • “Would never get past the lawyers.”
Category III. Blame Lack of Resources
  • “Can’t afford it.”
  • “Don’t have time.”
  • “We already have a strategy.”
Category IV: Invoke Superiority
  • “I’m the expert. I don’t need you to tell me how to communicate.”
  • “Our stakeholders have their own way of thinking about things.”
  • “Why on earth would we ever say bad things about ourselves?”
  • “That’s not what communication is.”
  • “That’s an oversimplification.”
Category V: Attack The Communicator
  • “You have no business writing up that kind of concept and submitting it.”
  • “You do realize this is the government, right?”
  • “You do realize we’re a private company, right? Why do I want to promote the ideas of other people?”
  • “Why don’t you work on your Microsoft Word skills first?”
Posted on July 25, 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author’s own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Public domain photo by annca via Pixabay.

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